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Tweets allow peek at life in North Korea

Jean H. Lee (via AP/ SMH) | Feb. 28, 2013
North Korea has switched on its new 3G mobile data service for foreigners travelling to the country.

These are snapshots captured as we go about our daily life working in North Korea: a man getting a haircut at a barber shop, traffic cops lacing up ice skates, a villager hauling a bundle of firewood on her back as she trudges through a snowy field. Some are quirky, unexpected things that catch our attention: a blinking Christmas tree in February, the cartoon Madagascar showing on state TV, a basket of baguettes at the supermarket.

And some are politically telling: the empty highway from Pyongyang, people piling onto trucks for transportation, postcards showing soldiers attacking Americans, banners praising the scientists who sent a rocket into space. Despite the new construction, gadgets and consumer goods, North Korea is still grappling with grave economic hardship. It's a society governed by a web of strict rules and regulations, a nation wary of the outside world.

Often, they are images, videos and details that may not make it onto Associated Press products but provide a behind-the-scenes glimpse of a country largely hidden from view even in our this globalised, interconnected world.

They help give a sense of the feel, smell and look of the place away from the pomp of the orchestrated events shown by the state media. It is a way for us to share what we see, large and small, during our long stays in a nation off limits to most Western journalists and still largely a mystery, even to us.

On Monday evening, while discussing how to cover the arrival of ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman and describing his array of tattoos and nose rings, we did what wasn't possible in the past: we Googled him from a local restaurant.

Twenty-four hours later, Rodman himself appeared to be online and tweeting from North Korea.

"I come in peace. I love the people of North Korea!" he wrote.

 

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