In an article on CNBC, cross-posted from VOX, there is a short video of a trip through Pyongyang, North Korea that was filmed by Finnish reporter Mika Mäkeläinen and posted on his Facebook page.

About the video, the article states:

There is a ton of weird and interesting stuff in the video: the hulking Soviet-style concrete apartment blocks painted in pastel pink and green; the brightly colored propaganda billboards randomly posted on the side of the road; the Three Revolution Exhibition that looks like a cross between Epcot Center and the planet Saturn; and the imposing Tower of Immortality — one of the 3,200 memorial obelisks built around the country after the 1994 death of Kim Il Sung, who was named the country’s “Eternal President.”

But what’s most striking about the video is how, well, normal everything looks.

When I read this, I wondered about the video and what “normal” looks like, and what sort of information I would need to judge it as normal looking. For instance, there isn’t any mention about what time of day this video was taken, which is important because it is a capitol city. If it was anywhere near rush hour, judging by the amount of traffic, then I’d say it doesn’t look normal compared to what one would expect to see in a capitol.

But there is something else I noticed that seems strange. As the trip progresses, there is a near sudden ending to buildings lining the streets, and then there is next to no civilization at all. No houses built on the hillsides, it’s all just empty space. Out in the empty space, the streets outside the city are lined with sidewalks, even though there are no buildings to be seen. I am just guessing, but these extend for seems like at least a few miles outside the city. And occasionally, as the video goes on, even though it is a rainy day, there are groups of people walking the sidewalks together holding umbrellas, out in the middle of nowhere. Where are they going and how far have they walked in the rain?  There is an inordinate amount of people walking compared to the traffic on the streets.

Is that a true definition of “normal”? Perhaps in North Korea that is normal. But it isn’t normal on the streets here. I live in a suburb of a not so major metropolitan area and there is more traffic around even during the off hours than in this video of a trip through a capitol, and there is next to no one on the sidewalks – especially in the rain. There is virtually nobody on sidewalks out in the middle of nowhere even on a sunny day. In fact, the sidewalk out in the middle of nowhere in this video looked strange to me because we simply do not need them and they are a rare sight.

The longer I pondered the video, the less normal it looks. I’ve only watched it once, and I can probably pick out more non-normal things if I watched it again. It looks so non-normal to me, and somewhat dismal, that I can confidently say that it isn’t a place where I would want to be.

 

 

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