North Korea university students dance in front of the Pyongyang indoor stadium.
Diary from inside North Korea
03:55 - Source: CNN
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.


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.

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

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.


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.

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

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

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.


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

They also carried out some interviews at a floating restaurant.

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.

This shot captures a twilight view of the capital.


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.

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North Korea celebrates late leader's birthday
01:54 - Source: CNN

A massive fireworks display lit up the night sky over the capital Thursday evening.

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

Earlier in the day, CNN’s Will Ripley reported live on Facebook from Pyongyang, as millions of North Koreans mark the occasion.

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Inside North Korea via Facebook Live
04:10 - Source: CNN

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.

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.

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

It’s still quite chilly in Pyongyang Thursday.


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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N. Koreans praise missile test despite sanctions
03:00 - Source: CNN

Sunday’s missile launch has been covered extensively in North Korean media.

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

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.

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

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

It’s a struggle to get connected in Pyongyang as Will noted.

Here’s one of his first reports of the day for television.

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CNN in North Korea after missile launch
03:34 - Source: CNN


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.

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

Follow Will, Justin and Tim on Instagram to get their updates. CNN’s Joshua Berlinger contributed to this report