By Glyn Ford
North Korea, or as it prefers to be known the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), is portrayed as mysterious and malevolent with its leadership denounced for its military enterprise and human rights abuses. It is no one’s poster boy for anything positive, prejudged as perennially guilty of the worst actions for the worst reasons. Yet, hidden behind this facade are the people of the DPRK as depicted in these photographs taken by Glyn Ford during some 50 visits over recent decades. Outside the circle of family and friends who hold the reigns of power and feature so prominently in the coverage of the tabloids and TV, there are 26 million men, women and children like us. These millions have their hopes, dreams, and fears that march on a treadmill that rarely stops, save intercut with rest and play. Picturing the DPRK puts these people and their places centre stage. They, and the rest of the people on the Peninsula, will be the hapless victims of any attempt to force regime change or any inadvertent stumbling into war. The lessons of Iraq, Libya and Syria have taught the world that applied idealism in the absence of realism is the road to hell in a handcart.
Glyn Ford was a Member of the European Parliament for 25 years (1984-2009). Much of his focus was on the International Trade and Foreign Affairs Committees, particularly with respect to East Asia. He has travelled to the DPRK some 50 times since his initial visit in 1997.
Glyn continues his engagement with Pyongyang through the Brussels based NGO Track2Asia. He is a Board Member of the Pacific Century Institute and has published North Korea on the Brink: Struggle For Survival (2008), Talking to North Korea (2018) – both translated into Korean – and Riding Two Horses; Labour and Europe (2022) – available from Spokesman.