Mark Byrnes is a former senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
There are Mercedes and Audis, along with bookstores, restaurants and well-swept but mostly empty streets.
This weekend, Pyongyang came as close as it ever does to a citywide party. To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Korean War truce, the North Korean government launched an elaborate celebration of its military and leadership, even opening a new war museum filled with television screens and battle site recreations.
During the festivities, foreign journalists were also able, under close supervision, to document their surroundings.
While hints of extreme poverty and hunger (rampant through North Korea's countryside) may be hard to find in a press bus tour of Pyongyang, signs of an economically disconnected country remain, with reports of well-swept but mostly empty streets during the day and and a semi-functional electricity supply and overall lack of street lights at night.
The government decides who gets to live in the capital, meaning that most of the 2.5 million residents are loyalists to the dictatorial regime. That may explain why Reuters reporter Se Young Lee saw the occasional Mercedes-Benz and Audi sedan, as well as a collection of bookstores, clothing shops and restaurants during her recent visit. Not to mention people congregating in public squares and talking on cell phones.
Below, via Reuters photographer Jason Lee, an interesting, albeit limited glimpse into city life in Pyongyang taken over the weekend: