Diary from inside North Korea
Diary from inside North Korea

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Diary from inside North Korea 03:55

Inside North Korea, the world's most reclusive country

Updated 0230 GMT (1030 HKT) February 21, 2017

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Pyongyang, North Korea (CNN)For just over a week, CNN's Will Ripley, Justin Robertson and Tim Schwarz stepped inside the reclusive state of North Korea.

They were the only Western broadcasters to report from the country since it conducted a ballistic missile test on February 12, the first one of 2017.
North Korea is one of the poorest countries on Earth. But for many in the capital, Pyongyang, life can be colorful.
Here are the team's dispatches from Pyongyang as they documented their trip on television and on Instagram.
Welcome to the world's most reclusive country.

Monday

The team's last day in Pyongyang took them to a newly completed eye hospital, which they were told was built in six months despite strict international sanctions.

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They met patients who had only recently undertaken eye surgery inside the center, including a number of children.

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Back at the hotel, it was time to begin preparing to leave North Korea, but not before one more sunset over Pyongyang's Taedong River, as seen from the hotel.

Sunset over the Taedong River. #Pyongyang #NorthKorea

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Stepping again onto Air Koryo, the North Korea state-owned airline, the team was given an in-flight meal of shrimp curry, salmon, cured meats, mushrooms, fresh fruits and a brightly-colored drink that was said to be cider.
Will Ripley and the CNN team signing off from Pyongyang.

My ticket home! #AirKoryo #NorthKorea

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Sunday

In Pyongyang, Sunday is the only day off, so naturally it is a day of fun and family time.
The Pyongyang Zoo has been newly renovated under the direction of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Tigers at the zoo are given as lavish gifts to North Korea's leaders.

Tigers at the #Pyongyang zoo are lavish gifts to the #NorthKorea leaders.

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These visitors to the city's aquarium take a picture of the fish on display. Smartphones are becoming increasingly common in parts of North Korea.

Smartphones have become a part of daily life in #NorthKorea, like at this #Pyongyang aquarium

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The Pyongyang Natural History Museum was built in just one year, despite heavy sanctions on the country its nuclear and missile programs.
For those who aren't spending Sunday at the zoo, a couple of giraffe statues will do.

Kids on the playground. #Pyongyang #NorthKorea

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Saturday

Like many other places around the world, weekends are the time for weddings in North Korea. No white gowns here today. These dresses are elaborate and brightly colored.

A North Korean couple on their wedding day (Pic: Ellana Lee)

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A regal bride. Public holidays in #Pyongyang #NorthKorea mean people get married. (Pic: Ellana Lee)

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This is how the team spent Saturday night out in Pyongyang: Bowling, local drinks and dried fish. No word on who won.

Saturday night in #Pyongyang #NorthKorea. Bowling, soju...and dried fish.

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On Saturday morning, the team visited a secondary school for orphans in Pyongyang.

Students at a primary school for orphans in #Pyongyang #NorthKorea

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North Korean kids learning how to drive in class..

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A class of around 70 performing arts students puts on a show in #Pyongyang #NorthKorea

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The school relies on a geothermal generator for heating and power.
Students are taught the ideology of their late leaders, Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung.

Friday

The team had a lunch meeting with government officials on Friday.

Quite a lunch spread. Not your typical North Korean meal. #Pyongyang #NorthKorea

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They also carried out some interviews at a floating restaurant.

The floating Rainbow Restaurant in #Pyongyang #NorthKorea

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After that they visited different construction sites around Pyongyang. The building in the photo is a 70-story apartment block that the North Koreans are racing to finish by April 15.

70-story apartment building under construction in #Pyongyang #NorthKorea

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This shot captures a twilight view of the capital.

Evening. #Pyongyang #NorthKorea (Pic: Ellana Lee)

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Thursday

Thursday in Pyongyang ended with fireworks to celebrate what would have been the 75th birthday of late leader Kim Jong Il.
The Day of the Shining Star is a two-day celebration packed with concerts, fireworks and military displays. It doesn't appear that the sanctions leveled against North Korea have affected the pomp and circumstance of its big national holiday.
North Korea celebrates late leader's birthday
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A massive fireworks display lit up the night sky over the capital Thursday evening.

#NorthKorea soldiers watch fireworks in #Pyongyang

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A sea of smartphones as #NorthKorea citizens watch fireworks in #Pyongyang (Pic: Ellana Lee)

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Soldiers and families filled Kim Il Sung square for the celebration.

A #NorthKorean boy and his father watching the fireworks (Pic: Ellana Lee)

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I'm seeing many more #NorthKoreans with smartphones. Here, they photograph an ice sculpture in #Pyongyang

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Earlier in the day, CNN's Will Ripley reported live on Facebook from Pyongyang, as millions of North Koreans mark the occasion.
Inside North Korea via Facebook Live
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‪CNN's first ever Facebook live from #Pyongyang #NorthKorea w/ cameraman @cnn_justin

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Thousands of people dressed in heavy winter jackets filed into an exhibition hall to pay their respects.
Many others are observing the occasion at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun where Kim and his father Kim Il Sung were laid to rest.
Others danced in front of the Pyongyang indoor stadium.

Mass dancing in Pyongyang, North Korea

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This shot shows a boy standing in front of the "Kimjongilia" flower show. The red flowers are named after Kim Jong Il.
Here, a North Korean female soldier stands guard at the Mansu Hill Grand Monument. While military service for women has long been voluntary, it was reportedly recently made mandatory in a bid to bolster the nation's armed forces. North Korean men are required to serve for 10 years beginning at age 17.
A North Korean female soldier stands guard at the Mansu Hill Grand Monument, Thursday, February 16.
This shot is from a bookstore outside the team's hotel.

North Korean woman walks alone in a traditional dress, a Joseonot, on the birthday of late leader Kim Jong Il

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Here's what the team's hotel room setup looks like.

Our live location in #Pyongyang #NorthKorea. I really need to start tucking in my shirt. Pic: @cnn_justin

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It's still quite chilly in Pyongyang Thursday.

North Korean man walks his bicycle over the Taedong bridge in Pyongyang.

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‪Good morning from a chilly #Pyongyang #NorthKorea. You can see the icy #Taedong river.‬

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Wednesday

The crew were in Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung square -- the location of many of the country's large and widely broadcasted military displays and parades -- and some of the surrounding areas.
On Wednesday, the team also talked to some North Koreans and asked them about recent missile launches.
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Sunday's missile launch has been covered extensively in North Korean media.

#NorthKorea evening propaganda broadcast shows images of Sunday's ballistic missile launch

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The crew visited some of Pyongyang's most important landmarks.

Soldiers pay respects to the late #NorthKorean leaders. This is considered one of the 'holiest' sites in #Pyongyang

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The symbol of the Workers Party, the ruling (and only) party, atop this gov't building in #Pyongyang #NorthKorea

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Portraits of the late #NorthKorean leaders are everywhere in #Pyongyang

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At the monument, flowers were on sale to commemorate the birthday of the former leader Kim Jong Il, who would've turned 75 this week.
In North Korea, Thursday is a public holiday, known as the Day of the Shining Star.

Flowers for sale to pay respects to the late leaders of #NorthKorea

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Nearby, people in Pyongyang were moving around the city by bus and taxi.

More people are taking taxis these days but most people ride the bus in #NorthKorea #NorthKorea

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One of the many underground street crossings in #Pyongyang #NorthKorea

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CNN photojournalist Justin Robertson captured this scene over the Taedong River.

Residential areas of Pyongyang.. Looking out over the frozen Taedong river.

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North Korean man fishing through the ice in Pyongyang

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It's a struggle to get connected in Pyongyang as Will noted.
Here's one of his first reports of the day for television.
CNN in North Korea after missile launch
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Tuesday

On Tuesday, the crew captured moments from their journey to Pyongyang.
There's usually only one flight a day and the plane isn't the biggest.

Cnn crew leaving for Pyongyang.. @willripleycnn @cnni @tjschwarz

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Here's the view from the window before the crew arrived in Pyongyang.

Landing in Pyongyang, North Korea

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