Stunning 3-Minute Video Provides a Rare Look Inside North Korea


The news: Filmmakers JT Singh and Rob Whitworth recently spent six days in Pyongyang, North Korea's capital and largest city, making this beautiful time-lapse video of day-to-day life and attractions across the metropolis of approximately 2.58 million.

Whitworth and Singh's North Korean handlers must be very pleased with the outcome.

It shows a side to Pyongyang most westerners don't see: bright, colorful and beautiful, full of attractive public spaces and fascinating architecture and monuments. Even the infamous Ryugyong Hotel, which has stood unfinished and abandoned since construction began in 1987, looks like a towering beacon of commerce in a bustling city.

Take a gander below:

Singh writes that the video was meant to capture the spirit of North Korea's economic reforms, which is full of "dynamism and sense of potential." It is meant to challenge western perceptions of the country as being hopelessly archaic and broken. 

The reality: Westerners might remember that life North Korea isn't all gloom and doom, but the Pyongyang depicted in the video is no more realistic. The sunny demeanor is a facade. The city is bright and shiny because of the elite, inner-party status of many of the government workers and party officials who live and work there.

Venturing just a few miles outside of Pyongyang, a foreigner would quickly realize North Korea itself is not full of "dynamism," but other things like "starvation" and "concentration camps." The United Nations reports that 16 out of the country's 24 million residents rely on chronically insecure government food rations, while necessities like clean water, electricity, health care and sanitation more or less available in sufficient quantities only to government workers and their families.

Defectors have told tales of outright starvation and torture in government-run camps. Even the powerful military itself is starting to run into serious troubles with its outdated equipment and vehicles, much of which is from the 1980s or earlier.

So watch, and enjoy. But remember that beautiful propaganda is still propaganda — and most of North Korea is nowhere near as vibrant.