Take a glimpse at authentic, unstaged beach scenes from North Korea

by Felix Esser

posted Friday, August 22, 2014 at 12:03 PM EDT

In recent years, North Korea has started opening up to foreign visitors, and photos and videos depicting everyday life in the reclusive Asian country have started trickling through to our western eyes. We've seen snaps by the daughter of Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Instagram photos from AP photographer David Guttenfelder, and most recently what is probably the first timelapse video of Pyongyang, the country's capital.

While many of the images appear to depict unstaged everyday scenes, it is hard to tell how much of what is depicted really shows the daily lives of the country's inhabitants, considering that visitors are usually accompanied by government officials that keep a close eye on where they go, what they photograph and who they interact with.

A man enjoying oysters and cold beer on a North Korean beach.

All the more surprising is the story that Justin Ames of the travel blog The Velvet Rocket recently shared. Being "under the close supervision of our North Korean minders" for most of their visit to the country, Ames and company were surpised to find themselves being dropped off at a crowded beach one day... unsupervised.

Naturally, the opportunity to interact freely with the locals was immediately seized, and the group set out to "to meet as many North Koreans as we could and to try and get an unfiltered sense of what North Korean people and their lives were really like." What they encountered were people bathing, enjoying drinks and food, dancing -- basically what you'd expect to happen at any beach anywhere in the world.

"Not exactly the first image one conjures up when thinking about gray, authoritarian North Korea."

What they also encountered was the hospitability of the locals. "Not a single group that we passed did not invite us to come and dance, eat, drink or just hang out with them," Ames writes in his article. And he adds: "So, yeah, basically The Velvet Rocket crashed a big North Korean beach party…"

As far as authentic unstaged glimpses into the People's Democratic Republic of North Korea go, this one is probably the most authentic unstaged glimpse we've seen so far. If you'd like to see more pictures from Ames' trip to the country, there are a several more articles over at The Velvet Rocket.

All photos in this article are © by Justin Ames and used with permission.

"People aren’t too selective on their mode of transportation to the beach."

A woman in a bathing suit on a beach in North Korea.

Locals barbecueing on a beach in North Korea.

(via The Guardian