Brief Glimpses of Everyday Life in North Korea

The country's emerging middle class—as captured through one photographer's iPhone
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Associated Press photographer David Guttenfelder documents life in North Korea with his Instagram. (dguttenfelder/Instagram screenshot) 

Signs of North Korea’s new middle class, who are benefiting from a growing underground economy or a connection with the Pyongyang government, have been cropping up with increasing frequency lately. We’ve reported on a few of these: a surprisingly good locally made tablet, appliances that serve mostly as status symbols, and mobile phones.

Still, given the country’s reclusiveness, foreigners rarely get a look at these trappings of relative wealth, and this group of so-called nouveau riche remains a rarity. (About half of North Koreans live in poverty and 2.8 million people are still affected by chronic food shortages. North Korea’s $30 billion-economy is less than 3 percent the size of South Korea’s.) Over the past five months, Associated Press photographer David Guttenfelder has traveled into North Korea several times, and documented daily life with his smartphone. We’ve culled some of the videos he’s posted on his Instagram account, which shows how ordinary life actually is in the country:

A North Korean waitress adds up lunch receipts at a restaurant.

On television in Pyongyang
North Korean girls selling ice cream in Pyongyang
Residents dancing in the Pyongyang Kim Il Sung stadium
Bowling in Pyongyang
Guests check into a hotel in Pyongyang.
North Korean soldiers
School children take a photo near a mausoleum holding the embalmed bodies of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.
Propaganda along a street in Pyongyang
Countryside south of Pyongyang


This post originally appeared at Quartz.

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Lily Kuo is a reporter at Quartz covering emerging markets.

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