This photo of the Central Government Building in Pyongyang reveals many interesting things about the country. First of all, it provides a glance of normal government bureaucrats walking around and going about their daily lives.
Secondly, the roads are clearly empty of cars and the people are walking on them freely with no fear that they will face oncoming traffic. Thirdly, it is an act of bravery by the photographer as taking a picture of this building is a dangerous offense. One that can lead to arrest for espionage and possible execution.
The propaganda machine
Imagine you only had one channel on television and one station on the radio and all they had on was the president talking all day long. Between his speeches you could enjoy patriotic country music videos and propagandist history shows.
Not only is that the only thing on, but you aren’t even allowed to turn it off. This is the reality in North Korea. You are legally required to keep the television and radio in your home or business on at all times. If you do not keep your television or radio on in order to at least listen to the propaganda you can be incarcerated, or even worse.
Rural train station
As you can see in this picture of villagers waiting by the side of the tracks, this is what a train station looks like in rural North Korea. Literally a post with holes and a dirt walkway leading to the tracks from the village.
Since you need a hard to get government permit to travel, people rarely leave their own home villages. Therefore, it is not unreasonable that not much infrastructure for traveling outside the North Korean capital Pyongyang exists.
Eyes and ears everywhere
Just like in the famous book 1984 by Geroge Orwell, everything that is said or done by the people of North Korea is monitored by the government. No place in the country is free from surveillance.
Hidden cameras and microphones are placed everywhere from people’s homes, work, parks and squares and even inside public transportation and cars! Just like in this picture, one can often see North Korean military watchtowers overlooking towns and villages, making sure that everyone is in line.
All for show
The North Korean tour guides love to show off the capital city of Pyongyang to visitors. The city looks modern and new and is full of shiny high-rise buildings that could fit in anywhere in the world, including Japan, China and even European capitals! Unfortunately, these buildings are mostly just for show.
Many of them are unfinished inside or empty and unused. Even the finished buildings do not have electricity. I’m sure it’s not easy getting to the top floors of those towers without a working elevator.