Lifestyle & Entertainment

These Interactive Panoramas Give You Unbelievable Access To North Korea

Aram Pan has always been intrigued by North Korea. Everything he saw in the media relating to the country, though, revolved around its leaders, military might, and confidentiality. Pan wondered what he would see if he simply asked nicely to look around. He found out the answer was more than he ever expected.

Pan, who is from Singapore, makes 360-degree panoramas for various clients, including real estate brokers, hotels, and retail stores. Utilizing fairly simple technology and setup (just a DSLR camera and a tripod), he creates high resolution, immersive panoramas that allow viewers to virtually explore a space.

Pan wanted to create these in the DPRK, so after submitting a proposal to the government, he was “given unrestricted freedom to photograph just about anything except military personnel, vehicles, and infrastructure,” he told Business Insider. His resulting panoramas and photographs, featured at DPRK360, give a totally fresh look into life in North Korea. 

Pan would often ask his appointed tour guides about a certain aspect of everyday life in North Korea and, many times, the guides would lead him directly to it. For example, Pan asked if he could “swim with the locals.” His guides took him to a local water park and spa, the Mansu Water Park (be sure to click the links to fully explore Pan’s panoramas).
Munsu Waterpark web

Aram Pan/DPRK360

Similarly, Pan wanted to see where people got their hair cut. His tour guides took him to the hair salon at Changgwangwon Health Complex, which has been in existence since 1980.
hair salon

Aram Pan/DPRK360

Pan says going to North Korea for the first time was like “entering an alternative universe.” “Suddenly, there are no advertisements or billboards, no internet, and nobody is rushing around at double speed,” he told Business Insider. There are certainly no billboards at the Mansudae Grand Monument, which features massive bronze statues of former Presidents Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il.
Mansudae Grand Monument web

Aram Pan/DPRK360

Another thing that surprised Pan was a large trade fair in Pyongyang he attended. “I did not expect to see the sheer amount of businesses entering North Korea and how so much foreign currency was moving about,” he says.
pyongyang spring international trade fair web

Aram Pan/DPRK360

Other interesting places Pan visited included the Meari Shooting Range, which allows participants to bring the fowl they shoot at the range to an adjacent restaurant where it can then be cooked for them.
gun range web

Aram Pan/DPRK360

He also checked out the Runga Dolphinarium, North Korea’s equivalent to Sea World.
Rugna Dolphinarium web

Aram Pan/DPRK360

He even got to visit the newly renovated Victorious Fatherland War Museum, a place with a strict “no photography policy.” The museum documents the history of the Korean wars, from the perspective of North Korea, of course.
Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum web

Aram Pan/DPRK360

Pan tells us this project was an attempt to demystify North Korea. However, Pan says after months of travel all over the country, he didn’t see any work camps or starvation, which left him with more questions than answers. In fact, many aspects, such as this beach near Wonsan, seemed almost normal.
Galma beach web

Aram Pan/DPRK360

Pan hopes the North Korean government will start to trust him more and show him even further behind the curtain, like in the Grand People’s Study House, seen below. Pan says that the North Korean government is actually very connected to the outside world, adding that “Yes, they will most definitely be reading this article, too.”
Grand Peoples Study House web

Aram Pan/DPRK360

Be sure to visit Pan’s website to see tons more pictures, videos, and 360-panoramas, and check back often; Pan is planning on going back to North Korea this week. 

(All GIFS courtesy of Aram Pan/DPRK360)1