For the first time since 2008, a team of Wall Street Journal journalists has been allowed to visit and document the North Korean capital city of Pyongyang just as tensions between the US and its longtime geopolitical foe are reaching a boiling point.
The team of reporters was taken on a guided tour of the showcase capital, reporting that the country’s nuclear ambitions appear to be etched into the city’s landscape. Giant sculptures of atoms sit on top of new apartment towers built for the country’s nuclear scientists.
The atomic aesthetics, WSJ said, only reinforced the idea that the country would never voluntarily part with its nuclear program.
“During a recent visit, the first by The Wall Street Journal since 2008, the city’s atomic aesthetics reinforced the message government officials conveyed repeatedly to the Journal reporters: North Korea won’t part with its nuclear weapons under any circumstances and is resolved to suffer economic sanctions and risk war with the U.S. to keep them.”
One North Korean official told the WSJ that the country has ”grown up” and that it isn’t “interested in dialogue that would undermine our newly built strategic status.”
WSJ noted that North Korea launched a ballistic missile over Japan on the second day of the trip. And hours after the group departed, US President Donald Trump vowed to “totally destroy North Korea” if the US is required to defend itself or allies, saying leader Kim Jong Un, whom he called “Rocket Man”, was on a “suicide path for himself and his regime.”
However, the two English-speaking diplomats in dark suits who chaperoned WSJ’s reporters during their trip took a “more measured tone.”
Over the next few days, they monitored several official interviews, visits to city landmarks and brief encounters with a handful of Pyongyang residents, which appeared to signal a rare outreach campaign by the government for outside news organizations to convey what it sees as the logic of its nuclear-weapons program. The US and North Korea don’t have diplomatic relations, and even indirect contact is limited.
North Korea only allows outside media to visit with the explicit sanction of the state, and visitors are kept under close watch. Authorities granted WSJ requests to visit factories and stores, which were chosen by the government.
Here is a collection of photos the reporters took during their visit to Pyongyang:
An atomic sculpture outside a newly constructed residential building for the country's nuclear scientists.
Children play with plastic weapons at an orphanage in Pyongyang.
The Dear Leader...
The entrance hall at Pyongyang’s new science library, crowned by a painting of former leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il...
A replica of a North Korean rocket stands in the center of the science library...
In another telling detail, WSJ spoke with Ri Song Ho, who directs the Golden Cup Trading Co. factory, which produces some 700 different snacks, sodas, breads and sweets. Among its brands is a cake featuring an image of a North Korean rocket ready for launch.