Bleak images show snapshots of daily life in the closed world of North Korea

  • An AFP photographer captured rare shots showing everyday life in North Korea.

  • Pedro Pardo accessed a remote part of the border in China's Jilin province to get the photos.

  • The images show a bleak picture of life in the completely isolated nation.

An AFP photographer captured rare images showing daily life in North Korea.

To get the photos, Pedro Pardo accessed a remote part of North Korea's border with China in the latter's Jilin province.

The images Pardo took from February 26 to March 1 offer a bleak yet fascinating look at life in a country shrouded in secrecy.

North Korea was founded in 1948 under Kim Il Sung as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, inspired by strict Marxist-Leninist principles.

Its population of roughly 26 million people lives largely in isolation from the rest of the world in the austere communist state, barred from going abroad without permission from the government and subjected to state-run media that blare propaganda praising the nation and its supreme leader, Kim Jong Un.

North Korea's self-imposed isolation is largely because of its guiding principle of "Juche," or self-reliance — the idea that it should be able to function completely independently and remain separate from the rest of the world.

In practice, this has achieved little other than stifling the country's economy and trade, and many of its citizens face high poverty levels and severe food shortages. The CIA says the country "remains one of the World's most isolated and one of Asia's poorest."

The Guardian reported in January that since the 1950s, an estimated 31,000 North Koreans had sought to escape and defected to South Korea.

That number surged last year amid what the unification ministry in Seoul called "worsening conditions in North Korea."

Pardo's photos present a unique look into those conditions and life in one of the world's last communist states.

North Korean soldiers working on the border.

North Korean soldiers carrying wood.
Pedro Pardo / AFP via Getty Images

The North Korean city of Hyesan.

Buildings in Hyesan.
Pedro Pardo / AFP via Getty Images

A wagon in the North Korean city of Namyang.

A green mobile wagon.
Pedro Pardo / AFP via Getty Images

A sign on a hillside in the town of Chunggang reads: "My country is the best."

Rows of identical houses below a sign saying in Korean, "My country is the best"
Pedro Pardo / AFP via Getty Images

A watchtower by the border in Hyesan.

A person standing on a watchtower.
Pedro Pardo / AFP via Getty Images

Portraits of the former North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il in Chunggang.

Rows of identical gray and white houses behind a large structure with two murals.
Pedro Pardo / AFP via Getty Images

Another set of portraits of the former leaders on a government building in Namyang.

A large gray building with two portraits displayed on the front at the top.
Pedro Pardo / AFP via Getty Images

North Korean people working in a field.

Two men working in brown field with snow around it.
Pedro Pardo / AFP via Getty Images

A sign in Chunggang reading: "Let's unify the party and all society with the revolutionary ideas of comrade Kim Jong Un!"

A Korean sign behind some gray buildings, a blue truck, and a group of people.
Pedro Pardo / AFP via Getty Images

Trucks crossing a border bridge connecting Changbai, China, and Hyesan, North Korea.

Trucks crossing a bridge in the background and a height-restriction barrier in the foreground covered in black-and-yellow tape.
Pedro Pardo / AFP via Getty Images

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