This combination of photographs shows portraits of North Koreans taken by Associated Press photographer Wong Maye-E. When asked what’s important to them, North Koreans might talk about working hard, or doing well at sports, or having a big family, but leader Kim Jong Un is never far from the conversation. (AP Photos/Wong Maye-E)
When asked what’s important to them, North Koreans might talk about working hard, or doing well at sports, or having a big family. But leader Kim Jong Un is never far from the conversation.
Pyongyang subway officer Ri Ok Gyong says she wants “to serve people because Marshal Kim Jong Un loves his people and so must I.”
Professional long-distance runner Pak Chol says, “I want to please leader Kim Jong Un through my sporting successes.”
Ri Ok Ran and her husband, Kang Sung Jin, say they want “to have many children so that they can serve in the army and defend and uphold our leader and country, for many years into the future.”
AP photographer Wong Maye-E tries to get her North Korean subjects to open up as much as is possible in an authoritarian country with no tolerance for dissent and great distrust of foreigners. She has taken dozens of portraits of North Koreans over the past three years, often after breaking the ice by taking photos with an instant camera and sharing them.
Her question for everyone she photographs: What is your motto? Their answers reflect both their varied lives and the government that looms incessantly over all of them.