Look inside North Korea’s frozen-in-time hotels: photos

James Scullin had worked as a North Korea tour guide for Westerners since 2012, but only ever saw the inside of two hotels. Determined to visit and photograph all 11 of them, he recruited photographer Nicole Reed to join him in 2018. The pair spent 12 months mapping out logistics. […]

James Scullin had worked as a North Korea tour guide for Westerners since 2012, but only ever saw the inside of two hotels. Determined to visit and photograph all 11 of them, he recruited photographer Nicole Reed to join him in 2018. The pair spent 12 months mapping out logistics.

Group Shot - Hotels of Pyongyang, North Korea

James Scullin (center left) and Nicole Reed (center right) pictured with their state-sanctioned Korea International Travel Company guides.

Nicole Reed / Hotels of Pyongyang


Source: Hotels of Pyongyang

Built between 1961 and 1996 to house foreign visitors, many of Pyongyang’s international hotels feature brutalist exteriors. From the outside, they exude the sense of uniformity that is prevalent throughout the capital.

Pyongyang Hotel 27 - Hotels of Pyongyang, North Korea

Pyongyang Hotel exterior.

Nicole Reed / Hotels of Pyongyang


Source: Hotels of Pyongyang

On the inside, however, they tell a different story. Scullin and Reed encountered grand marble-lined foyers decorated with fake flowers and pastel colors …

Chongnyon Hotel - Youth 33

Chongnyon Hotel foyer.

Nicole Reed / Hotels of Pyongyang


Source: Hotels of Pyongyang

Before North Korea closed its borders to tourists due COVID-19, it received just a few hundred thousand tourists per year, mostly from China. In 2017, the United States banned citizens from visiting North Korea following the death of UVA student Otto Warmbier, who was detained by North Korean officials.

Ryanggung Hotel 16 - Hotels of Pyongyang, North Korea

Ryanggang Hotel shop and seating area.

Nicole Reed / Hotels of Pyongyang


Source: New York Times, United Press International, New York Post, US Department of State

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