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A rare peek inside North Korea

Ed Flanagan / NBC News

From atop Jangdaezae hill in Pyongyang on Monday, the visual effect of thousands of people waving flower wreaths was stunning during the event to commemorate the unveiling of a new mural of Kim Jong-il, who died last year.

North Korea has invited international journalists into the reclusive country to witness the launch of what they say is a weather observation satellite using a three-stage rocket in mid-April. The satellite launch is timed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung. The United States and South Korea say the satellite launch is more likely a thinly disguised test of long-range missile technology.

Ed Flanagan / NBC News

NBC cameraman David Lom was intrigued by what looked like old Arri Super 16mm film cameras in Pyongyang on Monday. Popular in the late 1950s, these vintage workhorses were in stark contrast to the high-tech cameras from the international media in Pyongyang, North Korea.

NBC’s chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, science expert James Oberg, producer Ed Flanagan and cameraman David Lom are in North Korea to report on the satellite launch. It provides a rare opportunity to get a glimpse inside the repressive regime as it transitions under its new leader, Kim Jong Un.


Ed Flanagan / NBC News

NBC News Senior Foreign Corespondent Richard Engel reports in front of tens of thousands just outside Kim Il-sung square in Pyongyang, North Korea on April 9, 2012.

The media’s movements will be closely monitored by North Korean officials. The Yanggakdo Hotel, which was selected to house all the foreign journalists during this week’s celebrations in Pyongyang, is on an island in the middle of the Taedong River and is only accessible by two bridges.

David Lom / NBC News

All North Koreans wear a Kim Il-sung pin when out and about. There typically seems to be two types of pins: one with Kim's face on a flag-shaped background and another of Kim's face on a small round button. In the case of our government-appointed minder, he often wears one pin on his suit jacket and another on his white collared shirt.

See some of the photos from a massive ceremony in Pyongyang Monday in honor of the unveiling of a new mural of Kim Jong-il, the "Dear Leader," who died last year. There are also some glimpses of ordinary life in North Korea.

David Lom / NBC News

On the train to the Sohae Satellite Launching Station on Sunday, our immaculate private train car frequently passed older models that serviced everyday North Koreans.

NBC News’ Richard Engel will be participating in a LIVE Chat with readers from Pyongyang, North Korea at 10 a.m. ET Tuesday.

David Lom / NBC News

Within the Yanggakdo hotel, the quietly slow pace of life in Pyongyang, North Korea comes out in the hotel's photo store.

Read more from NBC on North Korea's satellite launch: Clues about North Korea's space plans come to light at last

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David Lom / NBC News

With so many journalists around and virtually all of our movement pre-planned by government-assigned minders, it's rare that you get a natural moment. The omnipresent President Kim Il-sung smiles down approvingly from his perch atop a train station.

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