Pyongyang VR lets you see inside the secret world of North Korea

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is arguably one of the most repressive countries in the world which is why not many can say that they’ve been inside the capital Pyongyang. One person who can say this, however, is Marcus Olsson, the founder and CEO of the Swedish startup SceneThere which produces custom 360-degree video experiences.

Pyongyang VR provides a virtual reality experience that shows you what life is like inside North Korea. Through an app, available on the web and in the Gear VR store, the experience combines 360-degree movies captured in the city with a voiceover by the North Korean scholar Andray Abrahamian. Olsson invited Abrahamian to do this to “add a deeper layer of understanding to the places that we’re visiting, a deeper understanding for what the significance of these places are for North Korea.”

This footage was collected in September 2016 when Olsson visited North Korea as part of a group of Nordic technology entrepreneurs who were invited to give workshops on  innovation and entrepreneurship. This was arranged by the Choson Exchange, a non-governmental organisation that supports business-minded individuals in the country who have experience in finance, law, business and economic policy.

Olsson states that gaining permission to use his 360-degree camera wasn’t difficult as the rig, consisting of six GoPro cameras connected to a pole, was unfamiliar to locals and attracted little attention. “The rig went through border control without me having to explain it too much,” he said. “And when I was filming I asked for permission. There was only one occasion that I wasn’t allowed to film – a circus event. It was very low light, so I wouldn’t have been able to capture it anyway.”

Although he states that he wasn’t given full freedom, Olsson’s aim with Pyongyang VR is to show a different side to North Korea, regardless of the bad press. “It’s important to make a difference between the story of the leadership and the story of the people. We’ve been educating the people in entrepreneurship because we believe this will create positive change,” Olsson explained.

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