north korean history

Some of the most influential photos ever.

Missionary with a starving child.

Scratches on the inside of a gas chamber in Auschwitz.

Christians protecting Muslims during riots in Egypt.

A man just finding out his brother has been shot.

Mother reuniting with her daughter after her service in Iraq.

Russian solider preparing for battle during WWII.

Russian solider playing an abandoned piano.

First response to the Boston Bombing.

Man rescuing kittens during floods in Cuttack City, India.

A Jewish man seconds before being shot by the hands of a Nazi.

French man crying as Paris is being occupied by Nazi Germany in WWII.

Vietnamese children crying after their village was accidentally burnt to the ground by Napalm from the Vietnam Air Force during the Vietnam War.

A monk prays for a man that died suddenly while waiting for a train in China.

Jews shortly after being liberated from a Death Train by Allied Forces during WWII.

Two Korean relatives, one from the North, the other South, saying good bye to each other after a reunion on October 31st, 2010 when North Korea allowed 36 South Koreans to meet their 97 relatives.  They have not seen each other since the war from 1950-53.

A German POW, being released from a Russia prison, seeing his daughter for the first time since she was a year old.

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On the fifth floor of South Korea’s sprawling National Library is a place far more fascinating than its name suggests: The North Korea Information Center.

Here you can read every edition of North Korea’s national newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, dating to its first publication in the 1970s. Or peruse a collection of 100,000 North Korean books and videos — fiction, nonfiction and the complete teachings of the autocratic dynasty that runs the country.

In addition to political propaganda, there is also a North Korean children’s book section. And there are textbooks. (Calculus problems are exactly the same in North Korea, but the textbooks have much less color.)

“There are very few places worldwide where you can get most of this stuff that is surrounding us,” says Christopher Green, a North Korea scholar from University of Leiden, who spends a lot of his time here doing research.

Researchers know about this place, which opened in the late 1980s during a thaw in inter-Korean relations. But the library isn’t advertised. Most South Koreans have never heard of it, and they can face jail time for having these materials out in the wild.

In The Heart of Seoul, A Trove Of North Korean Propaganda

Photos: Elise Hu/NPR