1. This is Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. Your basic big city in east Asia.
2. …But take a closer look.
3. You’d think a city filled with 3.3 million people would have at least a few advertisements on its streets, right?
Times Square in New York City. Filled with ads. (Almost disgustingly filled with ads.)
There are no ads in sight along this main artery in Pyongyang. The communist nation prohibits a free business market, which means instead of ads, you’re going to see lots of gray. You’ll also notice there are no cars — “No cars on one of the city’s busiest streets?” you ask. Owning a vehicle is a special privilege reserved for military and government officials (so rush hour traffic is less of a problem in Pyongyang).
7. “Oh, look! Some ads along this big intersection in Pyongyang. It sort of looks like Columbus Circle!”
9. Yeah! Except, well…not really.
Those bright red, blue and yellow signs are actually communist propaganda hyping up the 99th birthday of the late North Korean founder, Kim Il Sung, back in 2011. In fact, the only “advertisements” you’ll see on North Korean streets are either honoring political leaders or bragging about the strength of the North Korean military.
12. Now let’s talk about celebrating your community.
13. This is what you expect to see at a typical parade in the U.S.
16. This is what you can expect to see at a typical parade in North Korea.
19. And then there’s playing nice with the neighbors.
20. The U.S. and Canada might squabble from time to time, but for the most part, we dig each other.
See! Look how nice our border is! This is Niagara Falls, separating New York State and Ontario.
21. North and South Korea, on the other hand? Not as tight.
Soldiers in Panmunjom, a North-South Korea border town.
22. Since the Korean War ended in 1953, officially separating the two, North and South Korea have been on dramatically different paths.
And, shockingly, differences in physical characteristics have already appeared between the populations of North and South Korea.
North Koreans are, on average, 1.2 - 3.1 inches shorter than South Koreans. Researchers believe malnutrition in North Korean children is stunting growth.
26. Alright, back to ‘Merica.
27. In the U.S., free political speech and peaceful protests are acceptable ways of promoting change.
28. Speaking your mind in North Korea, however, can cost you everything.
Stand up to the North Korean government, and you could be sent away — for life — to a prison camp. Those few who have escaped speak of strenuous days of mandatory hard labor, torture, rape, executions, medical experimentation and forced abortions. Appallingly, there has even been reports of prisoners eating their own children in order to survive.
29. Because there’s a lack of free media and access to information in North Korea, thorough documentation from within the country is rare.
30. When outsiders do gain access to visit, however, they often get a government-controlled, manipulated — and quite honestly, creepy — experience.
Take, for example, this insane clip from HBO’s “Vice”, which tours a North Korean university computer lab. There’s no tweeting in this class, that’s for sure.
32. It’s odd they’re all on computers anyways, as only a mere .01% of North Koreans have access to the Internet.
Remember when that same documentary captured Dennis Rodman’s visit to North Korea to watch a basketball game alongside Kim Jong-un? The Harlem Globe Trotters were playing.