What North Korea's Olympic delegation saw for the first time

One peninsula, two very different ways of life.Some of North Korea's delegation to the PyeongChang Olympics st...

Posted: Feb 14, 2018 3:14 PM
Updated: Feb 14, 2018 3:14 PM

One peninsula, two very different ways of life.

Some of North Korea's delegation to the PyeongChang Olympics stepped into a very different world from the sheltered and tightly controlled version of reality they're accustomed to at home.

It's not just new technology the North Koreans encountered on their three-day visit. It is the influx of everyone, from all corners of the globe.

"[The] atmosphere of freedom will be unfamiliar," says Seoul resident Yang Yong-soo, 62. "They'll probably think it's a different dimension."

CNN's Will Ripley has reported from North Korea 17 times and has seen just how different the realities are between the two countries.

Art: The art in South Korea -- even simple advertisements -- is a stark departure from North Koreans' state-controlled exposure to any sort of creativity or culture.

Rooms across North Korea feature prominent photos of the country's late leaders, portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. Nearly all monuments and public art displays across the country feature their likenesses or are dedicated to the ruling Workers' Party of Korea.

Foreigners: The North Korean delegates probably encountered many more people from different cultures and ethnicities on this trip than they ever had before.

North Korea prides itself on being racially pure and homogenous. Inside the communist country, their exposure to non-North Koreans is tightly controlled. The government also prohibits North Koreans from coloring their hair any shade but their natural dark black or brown. Unusual hair colors like blue probably surprised them.

Food: A stark contrast also exists in the wide variety of food available across Pyeongchang.

Beef, chicken and pork are all unaffordable luxuries for most North Koreans, who have experienced repeated famine and food insecurity.

"I think they'll feel that what they see with their own eyes are much different from what they learned," says Yoo Hyun, 30, of Geoje, South Korea.

Transportation: Before arriving at the Olympics, the North Korean delegation boarded the KTX, a high-speed train that travels nearly 190 miles per hour. It's not just the speed that is new for them -- their rail and bus network relies on aging, outdated infrastructure and technology. Trains and buses are older and slower than their counterparts in the south.

Freedom of movement: Even people's movements within North Korea are state-controlled. Citizens must get travel permits to leave their home provinces to visit Pyongyang.

Phones and internet: Cell phones, even smartphones, are not a rare sight in North Korea's capital, but South Korea's free and open internet is. North Koreans in Pyeongchang are barred from accessing the internet. The nation's strict censors would probably have found a lot of the content "yellow," a North Korean term for inappropriate and subversive. Content critical of their country, their system and most importantly their leader, Kim Jong Un, would have set off immediate alarm bells.

Television: The delegates probably got their first opportunity to see television that wasn't controlled by the state during their visit -- if they were allowed to watch TV unsupervised, which is unlikely. Although North Korea is cut off from the internet, it does have state-controlled intranet and television channels, although the content is monitored and censored. Smuggled media content, on thumb drives and DVDs, are rare luxuries in the country.

Street lights: Flashing lights and neon signs dot the streets of Pyeongchang, a big departure from the often darkened streets in North Korea.

Cars: There are significantly more cars on the streets of South Korea than the members of the delegation would ever see in the north, including brand new domestic models. In North Korea, many of the cars are older imports.

Electricity: The few escalators and elevators across Pyongyang are often stalled by power outages. Even with the influx of visitors for the Olympics, power has remained constant in Pyeongchang.

"I think they would have been surprised by facilities themselves," says Incheon resident Yang Yu-jin, 22. "They have come out after being confined, so I think for them it'd feel very free and new. They'll think it's like experiencing a new world."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 87807

Reported Deaths: 2002
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin25454917
Ramsey10349316
Dakota6995125
Anoka5596132
Stearns367023
Washington349255
Scott236632
Olmsted225327
Nobles192016
Blue Earth15566
Wright14937
Carver13197
Rice12908
St. Louis128229
Mower12614
Clay121340
Sherburne106313
Kandiyohi9112
Winona82818
Lyon6344
Steele5132
Freeborn5043
Nicollet49516
Watonwan4954
Benton4923
Todd4722
Le Sueur4413
McLeod4382
Waseca4228
Chisago4211
Crow Wing41018
Otter Tail3734
Beltrami3654
Goodhue3219
Martin2909
Itasca26413
Polk2624
Becker2372
Pine2360
Isanti2340
Carlton2311
Douglas2291
Cottonwood2140
Pipestone2089
Morrison1901
Dodge1880
Chippewa1851
Sibley1693
Meeker1662
Wabasha1660
Unassigned16552
Brown1642
Murray1492
Rock1450
Yellow Medicine1442
Mille Lacs1363
Faribault1290
Jackson1251
Cass1233
Renville1206
Roseau1090
Pennington1081
Fillmore1050
Houston1040
Swift1041
Kanabec1008
Koochiching1003
Lincoln950
Redwood930
Stevens901
Pope820
Hubbard710
Aitkin691
Big Stone660
Wadena610
Grant574
Wilkin553
Norman510
Lake480
Marshall481
Mahnomen451
Lac qui Parle410
Red Lake370
Traverse290
Clearwater240
Lake of the Woods201
Kittson130
Cook60

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 78552

Reported Deaths: 1255
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk15133256
Johnson496227
Woodbury486561
Black Hawk431686
Linn3722105
Story326317
Scott271227
Dubuque266140
Dallas265338
Pottawattamie195137
Buena Vista193312
Marshall175634
Sioux12753
Wapello124357
Webster118414
Muscatine105452
Clinton104618
Plymouth100120
Cerro Gordo98621
Crawford9804
Warren9226
Jasper74232
Des Moines7247
Marion7014
Tama68531
Carroll6275
Henry5974
Lee5857
Wright5571
Dickinson4756
Bremer4597
Boone4557
Washington42711
Louisa41915
Franklin33117
Mahaska32619
Delaware3183
Hamilton3143
Jackson2923
Floyd2913
Winneshiek2835
Benton2781
Clay2773
Hardin2731
Winnebago26211
Butler2572
Clarke2533
Emmet24810
Shelby2411
Jones2393
Allamakee2375
Poweshiek2368
Lyon2323
Buchanan2291
Clayton2273
Cedar2171
Guthrie2115
Kossuth2090
Chickasaw2030
Grundy2002
Madison1992
Sac1980
Cherokee1792
Howard1795
Iowa1791
Fayette1781
Mitchell1750
Hancock1712
Harrison1692
Humboldt1693
Calhoun1672
Mills1621
Palo Alto1560
Pocahontas1502
Monroe14410
Page1410
Lucas1386
Jefferson1321
Cass1282
Monona1281
Osceola1210
Appanoose1193
Taylor1191
Union1193
Davis1134
Van Buren1081
Worth1000
Keokuk891
Montgomery855
Ida840
Greene820
Fremont790
Wayne792
Adair621
Decatur580
Audubon551
Ringgold412
Adams270
Unassigned150
Rochester
Clear
55° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 55°
Mason City
Clear
55° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 55°
Albert Lea
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 57°
Austin
Clear
55° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 55°
Charles City
Clear
55° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 55°
Warmer Weather Ahead
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Saturday Weather

Image

What are the benefits of bringing football back to Minnesota this fall?

Image

Candlelight vigil for Prisoners of War

Image

MC Masters National Championship Regatta

Image

Early voting begins in Minnesota

Image

Dooley's Pub closes due to health hazards

Image

Area athletic directors prep to welcome back sports

Image

Early voting begins in Minnesota

Image

TikTok Ban to Begin This Weekend

Image

Sara's Evening Forecast - Friday

Community Events