2016 Photo Contest, Long-Term Projects, 3rd prize

North Korea: Life in the Cult of Kim


David Guttenfelder

The Associated Press

03 April, 2012

A student learns to drive a tractor on a computerized driving simulator at the Samjiyon Schoolchildren’s Palace, in the north of the country.

North Korea emerged in the upheaval following the end of World War II and the Korean War, and for six decades has been one of the most isolated and secretive nations on earth. Its history is dominated by the founding president, Kim Il-sung, known as the Great Leader. He shaped political affairs for almost half a century, establishing a totalitarian state which shut itself off from the outside world. A leadership cult has grown around the Kim dynasty, passing from Kim Il-sung to his son Kim Jong-il (the Dear Leader) and grandson, the current supreme leader Kim Jong-un.

The country is run along rigidly state-controlled lines. Local media are strictly regulated, and the foreign press largely excluded. The photographer was granted rare access, visiting North Korea on some 40 occasions between 2008 and 2015. He photographed not only large state-orchestrated events, but also everyday rural life.

About the photographer

David Guttenfelder

Guttenfelder previously spent 20 years as a photojournalist for the Associated Press based in Nairobi, Abidjan, New Delhi, and Tokyo covering news in more than 75 countries aroun...

Technical information

Shutter Speed
Focal length
17.0 mm
Canon EOS 5D

This image is collected in