North Korea, South Korea: A Tale of Two Countries

Countries come to be defined by what they prohibit rather than what they permit.

Nowhere is that contrast between the haves and the have-nots or the free and the imprisoned more evident than on the Korean Peninsula. The divide between the North and the South has ripped families apart, pushed an entire population under the shadow of authoritarian rule and created a vulnerable relationship between the two neighbours that constantly threatens to erupt into war. The Orwellian North Korea - with Kim Jong-Un at its helm - is one of the last remaining dictatorships in the world that still strives towards the impossible notion of autarky. As a consequence its people suffer from famine, poverty and a near-complete ignorance of the ‘outside world’.

Meanwhile, South Korea is a roaring economy that encourages innovation, artistic expression and freedoms.  In fact, it is currently led by the country’s first female president – a milestone that speaks volumes about just how diametrically different South Korea is to the north.

The book Korea | Korea by Dieter Leistner is a striking photo project depicting the various differences between the two countries by portraying the regular and mundane – street culture, landscapes - that you don’t see on the news. Leistner is an architectural photographer so instinctively his eyes fell on to the urban landscapes of Seoul and Pyongyang, photographing them in 2012 and 2006 respectively. The result? A remarkable collection of photos made up of supposedly 'unremarkable' images that tell a poignant story. 

Street scene in Insa-dong / Street scene in Pyongyang

Bus stop for Boseong Girls' Middle and High School / Bus stop in Pyongyang

Hat seller on Insa-Dong Street / Policewoman on Janggwang Street 

Seoul Subway / Pyongyang Metro

Architecture lecture at Daelim University / Language course at the Grand People's Study House

A suburb of Seoul / Fields in the Gangdong district

The book is published by Gestalten – find a copy here.