The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

A look at North Koreans living in Pyongyang

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:

Jason Aldag, video journalist, with Fifield:

The Washington Post's Anna Fifield has been to North Korea seven times. Here's how media access has changed over the years. (Video: Jason Aldag, Anna Fifield/The Washington Post)

Read more stories about visiting North Korea:

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

I went to North Korea and was told I ask too many questions

Incredible 360 degree photos and video show what it’s like inside North Korea