A man smokes cigarettes in traffic in Pyongyang on May 4, 2016. (Photo by Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

North Korea remains a secluded place filled with contradictions. While the capital of Pyongyang is flourishing with new high-rise apartments, amusement parks and swimming pools, regular people on the outskirts continue to suffer from starvation and hunger. Kim Jong Un continues to reign over a nuclear weapons program that is growing, defying expectations from those who said it wasn't feasible for a North Korean rocket to reach the United States. Now we know it's a possibility.

North Korea's progress was on full display on Saturday, when the Hermit Kingdom celebrated the birthday of founder Kim Il Sung in the heart of the capital. A large band played while a sea of soldiers and officials in uniform marched in front of Kim, who wore a suit and tie.

But what about those living in Pyongyang when the parades and fanfare disappear?

Last summer, The Washington Post's Tokyo bureau chief Anna Fifield along with photojournalist Linda Davidson and video journalist Jason Aldag traveled to Pyongyang to attend the Worker's Party Congress. While they couldn't approach North Koreans at random on the trip (all of the journalists had minders who followed them wherever they went), it was still an opportunity to come face-to-face with those living in the city.

"We know so little about North Korea that every sliver of information adds to our collective understanding of the place," wrote Fifield at the time. "Reporting from here can often be a surreal experience."

Here are just some of the people she, along with Davidson and Aldag, saw and met along the way:

Anna Fifield, Tokyo bureau chief: 

Linda Davidson, photojournalist:


A farmer pauses when asked by foreign press if he blames his government for food shortages in his country at Jangchon cooperative farm on the outskirts of Pyongyang, North Korea on May 4, 2016. The homes had vegetable gardens in the front and solar panels on the roofs, but they didn't appear to be very populated. (Photo by Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

A female worker monitors newly harvested silk machinery in the first stage of processing at the Kim Jong Suk Silk Mill in Pyongyang on May 9, 2016. The mill was named after named after Kim Jong Il’s mother. (Photo by Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

Yoon Chol Ho, a lab technician who says he is a medical doctor at the Pyongyang Maternity Hospital in Pyongyang, North Korea, on May 7, 2016. He was asked about how sanctions might be affecting his ability to perform at the hospital. (Photo by Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

A woman works on the Internet at the research and library section of Kim Jong Suk Silk Mill in Pyongyang on May 9, 2016. Use of the Internet by the general public is banned in the country with few exceptions. This is one of them. Korean officials told foreign media that the people in this library are learning English on the Internet. (Photo by Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

Jason Aldag, video journalist, with Fifield:

Read more stories about visiting North Korea:

The Post arrives in North Korea for a once-in-a-generation party congress

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