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‘Pyongyang showcases giant movie set-like buildings,’ says British writer

‘Pyongyang showcases giant movie set-like buildings,’ says British writer

Posted June. 30, 2018 07:27,   

Updated June. 30, 2018 07:27


Oliver Wainwright, a contributing writer in architecture to the U.K. dailies the Guardian and the Times, visited Pyongyang, North Korea in 2015 when he took tours to landmark buildings including Moonsudae Water Park that the North brags about.

He stayed for about just 10 days in the North through a tour package, but he managed to take more than 200 photos there from a perspective of a professional photographer with a strong architectural sense as an expert. His book ‘‘Inside North Korea,” a collection of his travel notes and photos, was published in the United Kingdom on June 22. A summary of the book, which was published in dailies including the Guardian, presented the past, present and future of North Korea’s architectural structures from an architectural expert’s perspective and insight.

The North’s local guide, who followed Wainwright, proudly said that “Speed Battle in Pyongyang” is trendy words in the North these days. While “Chollima Speed Battle” existed during the Kim Il Sung era, the North’s incumbent leadership is placing order to speedily construct buildings in Pyongyang. As a result, defective building projects, including the collapse of a 23-story apartment building in Pyongyang’s Pyongchon district in 2014, have repeatedly occurred.

Having toured architectures in the North, Wainwright said those buildings were like movie sets where people do not reside. Pyongyang serves as the movie studio or stage for those sets. The North’s tour guide even said, “There seems not little reason for foreign tourists to come and see those empty buildings.”

After his tour in Pyongyang, Wainwright witnessed the reality of the North on his way to the airport. Immediately after getting out of the capital city, he came across collapsed homes, expressway with lots of potholes and rust iron towers. He instantly thought to himself that these structures, rather than Munsudae Water Park, are the ones that demonstrate the genuine reality of living in the Stalinist country.

Mi-Kyung Jung mickey@donga.com