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Inside Pyongyang

Photo: Lee Jin-man / AP

Evan Osnos "Letter from Pyongyang" in next week's New Yorker: "This summer, the prospect of a nuclear confrontation between the United States and North Korea, the most hermetic power on the globe, entered a realm of psychological calculation reminiscent of the Cold War."

"More than any other capital that has been marooned by politics — Havana or Rangoon or Caracas — Pyongyang presents a panorama from another time. Soviet-era Ladas and ancient city buses ply the streets, while passengers stick their heads out the windows in search of cool air. Buildings are adorned with Korean-language banners hailing the 'Juche ideology,' the official state credo, which glorifies self-reliance and loyalty."

"On an embankment near a major intersection, workers in gray coveralls were installing an enormous red sign that praised the "immortal achievements of the esteemed Supreme Leader, comrade Kim Jong Un, who built the nuclear state of Juche, the leader in rocket power!"

"Pyongyang is a city of simulated perfection, without litter or graffiti—or, for that matter, anyone in a wheelchair. Its population, of 2.9 million, has been chosen for political reliability and physical health. The city is surrounded by checkpoints that prevent ineligible citizens from entering. ... Pyongyang is the emptiest, quietest capital in Asia. ..."

"Iraq taught us the cost of going to war against an adversary that we do not fully understand. Before we take a radical step into Asia, we should be sure that we're not making that mistake again."

Curl up with the whole thing.