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In February of 2013, the government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, quietly and without ceremony, opened the Koryo Link 3G celluar network to foreign tourists and journalists, allowing the first crack to form in the decades-old curtain of state-controlled text and media imagery. While the majority of North Korean nationals are restricted to using only the “walled garden” of the Kwangmyong intranet, and authorized access to the global internet is predominantly in the service of the propoganda of the state and the Worker's Party of Korea, this modest respite has resulted in the appearance of digital photography uploaded directly from north of the 38th parallel to the photo-sharing, social media network Instagram.
The sudden emergence of relatively uncensored imagery from inside the most secluded and poorly understood culture on Earth is a remarkable phenomenon in and of itself and a first encounter for a larger audience to what Philipp Meuser calls, “the world’s best-preserved open-air museum of socialist architecture.” But, the combination of the faux-retro, augmented reality of Instragram's filters and these first glimpes of the brutal emptiness of the streets of Pyongyang, the prefab, plattenbau facades of skyrise apartments, the surreal spectacles of Juche idealogy, and the all-to-familiar faces of people in the course of everyday life seem born from the same moody drama and intepretable authenticity."A Diplomatic Resolution" is a collection of all the photos on Instagram tagged with the search terms #pyongyang and/or #northkorea and organized by date of upload. By themselves, each photo, tainted as it is by the saturated Hefe, washed out Optimist or sepia-toned Earlybird story telling of the software, the photographer and our own expectations, captures a milisecond of witness to what AP photographer David Guttenfeld describes as “something worth trying to understand in North Korea.” In the aggregate they represent an important moment in the history of technology, architecture, global culture and the DPKR.