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Postcard

A Rare Glimpse of City Life in North Korea

This weekend, Pyongyang came as close as it ever does to a citywide party. To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Korean War truce, the North Korean government launched an elaborate celebration of its military and leadership, even opening a new war museum filled with television screens and battle site recreations.

During the festivities, foreign journalists were also able, under close supervision, to document their surroundings.  

While hints of extreme poverty and hunger (rampant through North Korea's countryside) may be hard to find in a press bus tour of Pyongyang, signs of an economically disconnected country remain, with reports of well-swept but mostly empty streets during the day and and a semi-functional electricity supply and overall lack of street lights at night. 

The government decides who gets to live in the capital, meaning that most of the 2.5 million residents are loyalists to the dictatorial regime. That may explain why Reuters reporter Se Young Lee saw the occasional Mercedes-Benz and Audi sedan, as well as a collection of bookstores, clothing shops and restaurants during her recent visit. Not to mention people congregating in public squares and talking on cell phones.

Below, via Reuters photographer Jason Lee, an interesting, albeit limited glimpse into city life in Pyongyang taken over the weekend:


A North Korean soldier rides a bus without his uniform in Pyongyang July 26, 2013. (REUTERS/Jason Lee)


Buses travel on a bridge over Taedong River amid the morning fog in Pyongyang July 29, 2013. (REUTERS/Jason Lee)


A general view shows Pyongyang's skyline with the 558-feet tall Juche Tower (R) near the Taedong River July 29, 2013. (REUTERS/Jason Lee)


A labourer gestures as he speaks to a co-worker at a construction site in Pyongyang July 28, 2013. (REUTERS/Jason Lee) 


A man walks past North Korean national flags in Pyongyang July 29, 2013. (REUTERS/Jason Lee) 


A North Korean woman walks at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang July 29, 2013. Picture shot through bus window. (REUTERS/Jason Lee)


A North Korean man rests next to a tented shop selling drinks along a street in Pyongyang July 29, 2013. (REUTERS/Jason Lee)


A foreign passenger reads The Pyongyang Times newspaper with a file photo of North Korea founder Kim Il-sung in his youth on its front page, on an Air Koryo aircraft flying towards Beijing from Pyongyang, July 29, 2013. (REUTERS/Jason Lee)

North Korean shop assistants walk on a street in Pyongyang July 29, 2013. (REUTERS/Jason Lee)


A North Korean shop assistant works at a shop in Pyongyang July 29, 2013. (REUTERS/Jason Lee)


A North Korean woman waits for customers at a shop in Pyongyang July 29, 2013. (REUTERS/Jason Lee)


North Koreans ride a bus in Pyongyang July 29, 2013. (REUTERS/Jason Lee) 

North Koreans walk past a huge billboard featuring late leader Kim Il-sung, in Pyongyang July 28, 2013. (REUTERS/Jason Lee) 


Portraits of late North Korean leaders Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung (L) are lit on the top of the Kim Il-sung Stadium in Pyongyang July 28, 2013. (REUTERS/Jason Lee)

Keywords: Asia, North Korea, Pyongyang

Mark Byrnes is an associate editor at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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