By Joanna Wong
Isolated from the modern world, North Korea has transformed its capital Pyongyang into a spotless and green showcase city.
The road from the airport into Pyongyang is lined with tidy light-coloured apartments, their balconies filled with flowers. The street is wide and clean with trees lined up neatly. There is not a scrap of rubbish in sight.
Flowering trees, such as cherry and magnolia trees, with mostly white, pink or purple blossoms are perfectly groomed. Planted flowers line roads in front of bus stops.
Monuments are surrounded by spacious grounds, like the woodlands around the Mangyongdae Native House, where Kim Il-sung was supposedly born. Lawns are neatly trimmed by women crouched in the grass with scissors.
No one litters, possibly because there is not much consumed in a disposable format. People in uniforms constantly sweep the ground, even when there is nothing to be swept
But the tour guide said the construction sites, places where hundreds of people gather with hand tools to dig, are ugly. “These are not beautiful so don’t take photos,” the guide said.
The guide also asked one person who had taken photos through the bus window to delete the construction site photos.
The city, though spotless, feels like a time capsule. There are no chain or big box stores, no fast food restaurants. The sole advertisements are posters glorifying the nation and its leaders. The faces of former leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il appear outside and inside buildings, in the trains and schools and on every North Koreans’ chest.
Electricity is scarce in the country and Pyongyang has the most. The nights are dark, except for the exceptions are the brightly lit tourist hotels, tourist spots like the Kaeson Youth park and buildings such as the vast Grand People’s Study House and the Tower of the Juche Idea.