Inside North Korea: ST's Rahul Pathak reports first-hand from Pyongyang

The Straits Times' associate editor Rahul Pathak (left) and executive photojournalist Desmond Foo flanking a North Korean officer at the Demilitarized Zone - described as the most dangerous place in the world - on the border of the two Koreas.
The Straits Times' associate editor Rahul Pathak (left) and executive photojournalist Desmond Foo flanking a North Korean officer at the Demilitarized Zone - described as the most dangerous place in the world - on the border of the two Koreas.PHOTO: ST FILE

Most of us have very fixed notions about North Korea - that it is the poorest country in the world; that its population is oppressed; that its citizens must hate its leaders - said The Straits Times associate editor Rahul Pathak.

But is the hermit kingdom really what it is projected to be?

A desire to see the country with his own eyes spurred Mr Pathak to travel to Pyongyang, allowing him to capture the intricate details in a full-length special report.

It took seven months of negotiations with the North Korean authorities before he was granted permission to visit its homes, hospitals, factories and farms.

While there, he saw a heap of paradoxes. On the one hand there are modern hospitals, four-lane-wide roads, state-of-the-art science facilities and an almost fanatical admiration for their leaders. On the other hand, there is a shortage of food, 12-hour-long power cuts and too many orphans in some children's homes.

"There are many more nuances to the place than what defectors and intelligence agencies tell us," noted Mr Pathak, who travelled with ST senior executive photojournalist Desmond Foo.

"This trip just reinforces the fact that as journalists, it is our duty to see things with our own eyes and be objective. That has to be done with first-hand reporting," he said.