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These videos show how ordinary middle-class life in North Korea really is

By Lily Kuo in North Korea

Signs of North Korea’s new middle class, who are benefiting from a growing underground economy or a connection with the Pyongyang government, have been cropping up with increasing frequency lately. We’ve reported on a few of these: a surprisingly good locally made tablet, appliances that serve mostly as status symbols, and mobile phones.

Still, given the country’s reclusiveness, foreigners rarely get a look at these trappings of relative wealth, and this group of so-called nouveau riche remain a rarity. (About half of North Koreans live in poverty and 2.8 million people are still affected by chronic food shortages. North Korea’s $30 billion-economy is less than 3% the size of South Korea’s.) Over the past five months, Associated Press photographer David Guttenfelder has traveled into North Korea several times, and documented daily life with his smartphone. We’ve culled some of the videos he’s posted on his Instagram account, which show how ordinary life actually is in the country:

A North Korean waitress adds up lunch receipts at a restaurant.

On television in Pyongyang.

North Korean girls selling ice cream in Pyongyang.

Residents dancing in the Pyongyang Kim Il Sung stadium.

Bowling in Pyongyang.

Guests check into a hotel in Pyongyang.

North Korean soldiers.

School children take a photo near a mausoleum holding the embalmed bodies of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.

Propaganda along a street in Pyongyang.

Countryside south of Pyongyang.