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Victoria Mitchell of VIC clears the water steeple during the Womens 3000 Metre Steeple Open during day two of the Australian Athletics Championships at Lakeside Stadium on April 14, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia. North Korean people hold up plastic flowers during an unveiling ceremony of two statues of former leaders Kim Jong-Il and Kim Il-Sung [...]

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North Korea has long been enigmatic - especially to the West.  An elaborate cult of personality created around the ruling Kim family permeates both the cultural and political lives of the nation. The world's most militarized nation, it has been developing nuclear weapons and a space program.  In 2002, President George Bush labeled North Korea part of an "axis of evil," primarily due to its aggressive military posture but also because of its abysmal human rights record.   North Korea has long maintained close relations with the People's Republic of China and Russia.  In an attempt to ameliorate the loss of investments due to international sanctions over its weapons program, North Korean officials have initiated a tourism push, focused on Chinese visitors.  Still, every travel group or individual visitor is constantly accompanied by one or two "guides" who normally speak the mother language of the tourist.  While some tourism has increased over the last few years, Western visitors remain scarce.  The last several photos in this post are by Associated Press photographer David Guttenfelder, who offers rare glimpses of life in the shuttered country. -- Paula Nelson (54 photos total)
Rolling out the red carpet for tourists is not commonly associated with the reclusive North Korean government, but that is what workers did for the departure ceremony of Mangyongbyong cruise ship in Rason City on Aug. 30. About 130 passengers departed the rundown port of Rajin, near the China-Russia border, for the scenic Mount Kumgang resort near South Korea. North Korea's state tourism bureau has teamed up with a Chinese travel company to run the country's first ever cruise. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

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The Associated Press recently announced that AP Photojournalist David Guttenfelder was allowed unprecedented access to photograph areas of North Korea. An article in a British paper stated, “The pictures are among the most candid ever published in Western newspapers.”

In North Korea, where the press is tightly controlled, Guttenfelder was able to document everyday life in North Korea. From women dancing during a show to a little girl playing piano in her school, we are shown life in North Korea. The collection of images shows sights unfamiliar to many, including an empty highway and a museum showing items from the Korean War.

 Journey to North Korea

1

North Korean soldiers, foreground, and North Korean traffic police, background, tour the birthplace of Kim Il Sung to pay their respects at Mangyongdae, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

2

Central Pyongyang, North Korea at dusk. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

3

Commuters walk through a subway station in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

4

Men read a newspaper on public display inside a subway station in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

5

Children look through a subway car window in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

6

A colorful, decorated sheet covers a bed inside the Koryo Hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

7

A statue of Kim Il Sung sits in the entrance to the Grand People's Study House in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

8

A young girl stands on floral-print carpet inside the Pyongyang Children's Palace in Pyongyang, North Korea. The large facility teaches performance arts, fine arts, and sports as extracurricular classes to students in Pyongyang. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

9

Rows of portable stereos sit on desks inside a music library room at the Grand People's Study House in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

10

A photograph of Kim Il Sung hangs on a wall next to a light made from a grenade inside an exhibit, made to look like underground bunkers used during the resistance against the Japanese occupation, at the war museum in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

11

In this March 9, 2011 photo, a United States flag and weapons sit inside a glass display case at the war museum in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

12

A girl plays the piano inside the Changgwang Elementary School in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

13

Stuffed animals are on display at Changgwang Elementary School where they are used for biology classes in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

14

A shadow of the 170-meter (560-foot) Juche Tower is cast over the Taedong River in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

15

Concert-goers sit inside an auditorium as they wait for a classical music performance to begin in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

16

A European tourist photographs a North Korean woman working at the airport as a North Korean Air Koryo flight arrives from Beijing, in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

17

This April 12, 2011 photo shows central Pyongyang, North Korea at dusk through a hotel room window. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

18

A car drives along a street at night in central Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

19

A shadow is cast across a parking lot as a man walks by a row of imported cars in central Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

20

A professional photographer takes a souvenir picture for visitors to the birthplace of Kim Il Sung at Mangyongdae, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

21

Two North Korean soldiers smoke cigarettes as a pedestrian walks past on a street corner in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

22

A North Korean traffic police officer stands along a street in central Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

23

Workers carry painted doors along a road in Mangyongdae, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

24

Two female North Korean soldiers hold hands as they tour the birthplace of Kim Il Sung at Mangyongdae, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

25

People stroll along the Taedong River in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

26

Flowers known in North Korea as "Kimilsungia" are displayed next to a small replica of the Kim Il Sung mausoleum at an flower exhibition in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

27

An illustration of a building project hangs in front of the construction project in progress in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

28

A guard reflected in a window stands by the entrance to a hall where organizers held an exhibition of the flowers known in North Korea as Kimjongilia and Kimilsungia in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

29

Students swim and play on a water slide at a pool facility at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

30

People work on library computers at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang, North Korea. David Guttenfelder #

 Journey to North Korea

31

A waitress is reflected in a mirror inside a hotel restaurant in Mount Myohyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

32

A bowl of traditional North Korean cold noodles, known as Naengmyeon, sits on a restaurant table in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

33

People pay their respects at a monument to Kim Il Sung at Mansu Hill in Pyongyang, North Korea as residents began to celebrate on the eve of the late President Kim Il Sung's birthday. In North Korea, April 15th is known as "The Day of the Sun" in honor of the former guerrilla fighter who founded North Korea in 1948. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

34

Men walk along the side of a street in Pyongyang, North Korea as the sun sets. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

35

A children's choir performs in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

36

Families have their photographs taken in front of the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang, North Korea. The palace, which was the official residence of Kim Il Sung until his death in 1994, is now a mausoleum where his embalmed body lies in state. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

37

Women perform a dance routine with badminton rackets at an event to mark the birthday of Kim Il Sung at a park in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

38

A girl takes a photo of her friends who were dancing at an event to mark the birthday of Kim Il Sung at a park in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

39

A city tram carries passengers in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

40

A member of a marching band, left, has her photo taken with a woman and young boy at an event to mark the birthday of Kim Il Sung at a park in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

41

In this April 15, 2011 photo taken through a bus window, a North Korean traffic police woman stands on the side of the street in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

42

Plates of food sit on a customer's table at a fast food restaurant inside an amusement park in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

43

People react on a ride at an amusement park in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

44

Two North Korean soldiers walk along a road and past a small village near the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas outside of Kaesong, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

45

Buildings sit next to a small body of water in an unidentified North Korean town along the highway from Pyongyang to the southern city of Kaesong. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

46

In this April 18, 2011 photo, a video shows the liftoff of the North Korean Unha-2 rocket to launch the Kwangmyongsong-2 satellite into space on a screen inside a hall at the Three Revolution Exhibition in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea called the launch, which took place on April 5, 2009, a successful bid to put a communications satellite into space. However, the U.S. and South Korea called it cover for a test of their long-range missile technology and accused Pyongyang of violating U.N. resolutions prohibiting North Korea from developing its nuclear and missile technologies. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

47

In this April 20, 2011 photo, hikers climb a trail along Mount Myohyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

48

North Korean workers rebuild the roof of a structure at the Pohyon Temple at the foot of Mount Myohyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

49

A woman looks at monkeys behind a glass enclosure at the central zoo in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

50

A man sits on a cart carrying wood on a road outside the southern town of Kaesong, North Korea. David Guttenfelder #

 Journey to North Korea

51

In this April 18, 2011 photo, men ride bicycles at the end of a work day in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

52

A multi-lane highway empty of vehicles near Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

53

Men operate a manual rail car on tracks running along the West Sea barrage near Nampho, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

 Journey to North Korea

54

A statue known as the Monument to the Three Charters for National Reunification, which symbolizes the hope for eventual reunification of the two Koreas, arches over a highway at the edge of Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) #

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