“They laugh, they love…they’re just like North Koreans” by Jong-jin Lim, who specializes in drums.

Posted bycollagennewtree@gmail.com Posted onMay 23, 2023 Comments0

“Ethnic homogeneity remains unchanged even as the North and South Korean leadership bicker and fight”

Photographer Lim Jong-jin traveled to North Korea six times between 1997 and 2006 as a photojournalist for the monthly magazines Mal and Hankyoreh, five of which were solo assignments.

When a South Korean journalist shoots in the North, they are usually restricted to a limited number of locations. This is because they are controlled by the North.

However, Lim was one of the few journalists who had the freedom to film North Koreans.

He felt comfortable talking to the people while filming, and this is reflected in his photographs.

Photo by Lim Jong-jin (*Photo copyright belongs to Lim Jong-jin)

When inter-Korean exchanges first began in the late 1990s, there were a few journalists who were able to shoot relatively freely in the North, but North Korean authorities began to crack down when they saw negative coverage of photos taken in the North by South Korean media.

Lim’s ability to travel to the North and shoot freely may have been partly due to the fact that he was a reporter for a media outlet friendly to the North. The monthly magazine Mal reported on non-defectionist prisoner Lee In Mo in 1989, and in 1991, the Labor Daily and Pyongyang Broadcasting Corporation picked up on Mal’s reporting and called for Lee’s repatriation. Lee was repatriated in 1993 and died in 2007, buried at the Mausoleum of the Patriotic Dead in Pyongyang.

“At the time, the company requested an invitation to North Korea, and they graciously sent it,” Lim said, “and I think they continued to honor the request afterward because trust was built.”

“In the South, the North is often portrayed as uncomfortable or oppressive, but when I came to the North, I saw that it wasn’t like that,” he said. “If I’m going to shoot something like that, I don’t want to be controlled or manipulated, so I asked them to trust me, and the guides in the North responded favorably.”

However, she recalled that they told her that she could not take pictures of the statue of President Kim Il Sung or North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, for example, if they were obscured or distorted.

Kim Sung-hye (left), head of the DPRK’s Asia-Pacific Peace Commission, and Lim Jong-jin (right), then a reporter for the monthly magazine Horses (*Photo by Lim Jong-jin.)

One of the ushers at the time was Kim Sung-hye, the head of the DPRK’s Asia-Pacific Peace Commission, who has since appeared frequently at inter-Korean talks. “I call her my sister, my sister,” Lim said of Kim, who was not in a high position at the time, but he assumes that she helped authorities authorize the shoot. He also recalls being told by the ushers that “Lim is the only South Korean photographer that Kim Jong-un knows.”

“The image that the North presents to the South is characterized by ‘powerful people’s army,’ ‘poverty,’ and ‘collectivism,'” Lim said, “but I felt that the sentiments of the people in the North are not different from those in the South, and that ethnic homogeneity has been maintained despite the 75-year division.”

He then showed photos he had taken in the North, describing the situation and the sense of ethnic homogeneity he felt at the time.

Lim showed us a series of photos he took in North Korea during his six trips there in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and explained them one by one.

〈Photo by Lim Jong-jin(*Photos are copyrighted by Lim Jong-jin.)〉

“This photo was taken on the banks of the Daedong River when I first went to North Korea in November 1998. I have photographed in many countries, but I have never seen people squatting comfortably for a long time like people in Korea. When I saw that, I first thought, ‘It’s the same’.”

〈Photo by Jongjin Lim(*Copyright of the photo belongs to Jongjin Lim.)〉

“This is a photo of a kindergarten teacher and her children in a park. The children are pointing to the bushes in the pond and the teacher is smiling. I felt like I was looking at my nieces and nephews.”

〈Photo by Lim Jong-jin(*Copyright of the photo belongs to Lim Jong-jin.)〉

“These are children playing in the park in spring. They are making something out of rhododendron flowers. This is how I felt when I was growing up in the countryside.”

〈Photo by Lim Jong-jin(*The copyright of the photo belongs to the artist.)〉

“It’s a child singing, but he’s imitating an adult. In the book, it is said that it is polite for a child to try to look like an adult.”

〈Photo by Lim Jong-jin(*Copyright of the photo belongs to Lim Jong-jin.)〉

“I heard singing, so I approached, and the girls were playing with rubber bands, and the rhymes were very similar to ours.”

〈Photo by Lim Jong-jin(*Copyright of the photo belongs to Lim Jong-jin.)〉먹튀검증

“Look at the boy’s expression. It’s very playful, right? The boy is breaking the rubber band. The girls don’t realize that the rubber band is broken yet. We men also did a lot of naughty things when we were young.”

〈Photo by Lim Jong-jin(*Copyright of the photo belongs to Lim Jong-jin.)〉

“These are students coming out of a group exercise. They are said to have been selected from all over the country, and the students feel a sense of accomplishment because the crowd loves them. Don’t we all have such memories from our school days? It’s different from the stiff teamwork we see in the media, isn’t it?”

〈Photo by Lim Jong-jin(*Copyright of the photo belongs to Lim Jong-jin.)〉

“We are students from Kim Il Sung University. We met at the side of the Daedong River. I think we came outdoors because our class ended a little early. When I told them I was from Seoul, they welcomed me, and since I didn’t have any other plans, we hung out together. The students had a talent show where they recited poems or sang songs.”

〈Photo by Jongjin Lim (*Copyright of the photo belongs to Jongjin Lim.)

“This is another student I met at the same place that day. He just smiled shyly, but I introduced myself as Jang Ryu-jin from Kim Il-sung University’s School of Economics. He had a clear and innocent face. I heard that he later became a journalist.”

〈Photo by Lim Jong-jin(*Copyright of the photo belongs to Lim Jong-jin.)〉

“They were students from another university. They played guitars and sang songs on the boat. I sang Ahn Chihwan’s ‘Wilderness’ and they liked it very much”



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