Thursday, April 12, 2012

Unscripted glance into North Korea

North Korea limits all visitors to its Potemkin city - well maintained areas of Pyong Yang. Areas that are well lit at night while the rest of the city - and county - are dark. But three buses carrying journalists made a wrong turn so several dozen outsiders got a glimpse.

Associated Press
The press bus took a wrong turn Thursday. And suddenly, everything changed in the official showcase of North Korean achievement. 
A cloud of brown dust swirled down deeply potholed streets, past concrete apartment buildings crumbling at the edges. Old people trudged along the sidewalk, some with handmade backpacks crafted from canvas bags. Two men in wheelchairs waited at a bus stop. There were stores with no lights, and side roads so battered they were more dirt than pavement. 
"Perhaps this is an incorrect road?" mumbled one of the North Korean minders, well-dressed government officials who restrict reporters to meticulously staged presentations that inevitably center on praise for the three generations of Kim family who have ruled this country since 1948. 
So as cameras madly clicked, the drivers of the three buses quickly backed up in the narrow streets and headed back toward the intended destination: a spotlessly clean, brightly-lit, extensively marbled and nearly empty building  
Dark North Korea vs. a tiny bit of light
Is reality the cluster of tall buildings within view of the main foreigners' hotel, where long strings of bright, colored lights are switched on when the sun goes down, illuminating entire blocks like some gargantuan Christmas decoration? Or is it the vast stretches of Pyongyang, by far the most developed city in impoverished North Korea, that go deathly dark at night?

No comments: