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:
Jason Aldag, video journalist, with Fifield:
Read more stories about visiting North Korea: