North Korea has gone through a tremendous metamorphosis since leader Kim Jong Un assumed power after the death of his father late in 2011.
What were once vacant lots or neighborhoods of traditional style houses have been transformed into blocks of huge skyscrapers dedicated to the nation’s nuclear scientists, or its rocket engineers, that tower over the capital of Pyongyang.
Street stalls offer fresh fruits and vegetables, even pancakes or hamburgers. There are almost enough taxis to make the city’s iconic women traffic controllers obsolete.
The nation has, at the same time, continued to struggle to provide all its people with such basic necessities as a balanced diet. Plagued by shortages of power and consumer goods, its economy was surpassed decades ago by its capitalist neighbors in South Korea. It remains one of the least free countries in the world, with severe restrictions on access to the Internet, to any form of international communication or travel and information that hasn’t been approved by the state. And, under Kim Jong Un, it has become a nuclear power, with long range missiles capable of reaching the United States.
As Kim emerges from his six years of self-imposed isolation, holding summits with is neighbors and, for the first time ever, with U.S. President Donald Trump, a country that had for so long seemed somehow dormant is now beginning to rumble back onto the world stage.
What path will North Korea take? For now, perhaps only Kim Jong Un himself knows the answer.
In anticipation of the upcoming historic summit, we have curated a series of photo galleries that take a closer look at life in North Korea.
Visual artist and Digital Storyteller at The Associated Press