Citizen Actors North Korea – Part 1

Urban legends and rumors abound that when on tour in North Korea the people you encounter will be government paid actors – this rumor mostly centers around the Pyongyang metro experience.

A map on the wall of the next station depicts a rather extensive subway network, with several stations scattered across Pyongyang. Several South Koreans I know are adamant that the entire thing is a sham, a Potemkin Village that consists of just two stations, and even those just for show. The “riders,” according to them, are all actors posing for tourists. They swear they have actually seen people get off one train and get right back on heading the opposite direction, in an infinite loop. From what I saw, I can’t say whether this is true or not, but it sounds a bit outlandish to me. It might well be true that there aren’t actually that many stops, and that the others stations aren’t anywhere near as fancy. But to run the whole thing just to impress foreigners … well, that would be pathetic, because it’s just not that impressive.

I agree with the above writer and feel that the metro was an authentic experience, but I also believe that just a few years back, when North Korea was first allowing in tourists and before the current construction boom, that it was possible that the metro might have had some citizen actors riding the trains for whatever reason the government felt that they needed them there.

The following is a collection of photos I took at various stations on the Pyongyang metro.  Could all this be an elaborate set and show for foreign visitors? I think not. Tomorrow I will post Part 2, a small photo collection of the people we encountered and suspected of actually being citizen actors.

Pyongyang Metro

Signal lady at the Pyongyang metro.

Pyongyang Metro

Signal ladies at the Pyongyang metro.

Pyongyang Metro

The long escalator down to a Pyongyang metro station.

Pyongyang Metro

Female soldier catching her train.

Pyongyang Metro

Metro train interior.

Pyongyang Metro

Signal lady and train.

Pyongyang Metro

Man waiting for his train.

Pyongyang Metro

Crowd offloading a metro train.

Pyongyang Metro

Pyongyang metro signal lady at attention.

Pyongyang Metro

Pyongyang metro signal lady at attention.


North Korean school group at the metro.


North Korean school group at the metro.


North Korean school group at the metro.


Waiting for the train at the Pyongyang metro.

6 responses

  1. Pingback: Citizen Actors North Korea – Part 2 « An American in North Korea

  2. Great shots again! Quite the adventure you’re on!

    December 23, 2011 at 7:11 pm

  3. Pingback: Pyongyang Metro Propaganda « An American in North Korea

  4. Pingback: After School Pyongyang in Black and White « An American in North Korea

  5. Bob Bunker

    Did you notice that it does not have overhead wire, nor a third rail…? It must be a 2-rail system, which makes it unique in the world I think… Which all seems a bit odd, as the trains (some) were bought from Berlin’s S-Bahn, which is I think 3-rail…

    Any thoughts??

    Bob Bunker – Hong Kong.

    September 14, 2013 at 4:49 am

    • I can try to get some specific pics of the hardware next time I’m in.

      September 14, 2013 at 7:01 am

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