2023 will be the 70th anniversary of the end of the Korean War. Officially, South and North Korea are still at war because a formal peace treaty was never ratified.
North Korea is a totalitarian dictatorship based on the cult of the Kim dynasty. The country has the most hermetic regime in the world, where citizens are bombarded with propaganda in an attempt to indoctrinate them and distance them from reality. Without the Internet and with the mass media being controlled by the government, it is difficult for the population to imagine an alternative.
South Korea and North Korea share a 250-kilometer-long border. However, each side of the border is one of the most militarized areas in the world. This makes crossing the border very dangerous for the North Koreans who decide to flee the country.
Since the 1990s, there has been a black market (Jangmadang) in existence in North Korea that is essential for the survival of the population which includes the illegal importation of goods from abroad. This allows the North Koreans involved in this market to come into contact with foreign products and get a glimpse of a very different and prosperous way of life. Since this market is not monitored as closely as other official work, in which men are generally employed, it is often the prerogative of women. As a result, women find themselves with more opportunities to evade surveillance and attempt to flee the country.
According to a report by the Norwegian Refugees Council, since 1999, an increasing number of North Koreans have managed to flee the country. As of 2020, a total of 33,752 North Koreans have arrived in South Korea and about 70% were women.
This project was created thanks to the fundamental support of the NGO PSCORE.
Filippo Venturi is an Italian documentary photographer. He produces personal projects concerning identity and the human condition. His works have been published in leading international magazines, such as National Geographic, The Washington Post and The Guardian. For the past years he has been engaged in a project on the Korean peninsula, earning him various awards, such as the Sony World Photography award and the LensCulture Emerging Talent Award. His works have been exhibited in Italy and abroad in exhibition spaces and festivals like Foro Boario in Modena as “New Talent” of the Modena Photography Foundation and MACRO – Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome.