Tuesday 12 December 2017

North Korea insider: See the world's most secretive state with this 360-degree virtual reality video

Kim Jong Un visits the Phyongchon Revolutionary Site
Kim Jong Un visits the Phyongchon Revolutionary Site
Protesters hold onto a North Korean flag as the police try take it away from them during an anti-North Korea rally at a checkpoint on the Grand Unification Bridge which leads to the truce village Panmunjom, just south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas. Photo: Reuters
North and South Korean family members meet during the separated family reunions at Mount Kumgang resort, North Korea. Reuters/Yonhap
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visits the construction site of the Paektusan Hero Youth Power Station, in Pyongyang
South Korean amy soldiers stand guard on Unification Bridge, which leads to the demilitarized zone, near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea. Photo: AP
North Koreans who signed up to join the army train in the midst of political tension with South Korea. Photo: Reuters
North Korea has restarted its atomic bomb fuel production plants
South Koreans who were separated from their families during the Korean War, talk with Red Cross members as they check application forms to reunite with their family members living in North Korea, at the Korea Red Cross headquarters in Seoul, South Korea (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
The two jets are the first of 12 purchased by the Philippines (AP)
Conservative activists in Seoul during a rally to mark the fifth anniversary of North Korea's artillery attack on the Yeonpyeong island (AP)

Rhiannon Williams

Few people can claim to have been inside the North Korean capital Pyongyang, but a new virtual reality video takes you right into a military parade in the secretive state.

ABCNews.com teamed up with Californian VR startup Jaunt to film the 70th anniversary of the North Korean Worker's Party in a 360 degree virtual reality video, watchable on a smartphone inside a Google Cardboard viewer.

You can also see a 360-degree non-VR version of it on Facebook.

The video begins with nationalistic propaganda playing on the TV of a spartan hotel room, before the presenter Bob Woodruff and the news team were taken on a pre-approved guided tour around the city, accompanied at all times by suited guides.

The footage captured some civilians in fairly western attire, weaving between cable cars and taxis on the streets of the capital, which Woodruff remarked were extremely modern for North Korea.

After stopping by several subway stations and landmarks, the team start filming in Kim Il Sung Square, where Kim Jong-un is met by rapturous applause during the Worker's Party's 70th anniversary.

Huge military vehicles are driven as part of the parade, which Woodruff claims gives analysts valuable insights into the progress of North Korea's nuclear weapons programme. A crowd of thousands then wave plastic flowers and cheer at a float bearing their leader's image. Kim Jong-un has claimed the country has developed a hydrogen bomb, according to the Korea Central News Agency.

The trip was Woodruff's sixth to what he called the "hermit kingdom". He was surprised the government allowed the team to bring in a 16 lens virtual reality camera, considering they had dismantled his pen to check for a hidden spy camera back in 2005.

The government appears to have slightly relaxed its stance on allowing foreign journalists into the country, along with US Internet and international phone access.

"Those who visit North Korea, including journalists, just don't get a chance to see anything truly secretive. We report everything we can see but it's hard to know how forthcoming the answers are from people we speak with because the "minders" guiding us around just listen to our interviews, writing down everything we say and how the interviewees respond," he said.

"Because of this unusual dynamic -- in a country where freedom of expression is suppressed, the underlying current is if either side screws up, then there is risk of being punished."

How to watch the 360-degree VR video

1 Download Jaunt's VR App, available on iOS and Android

2 Plug headphones into your smartphone

3 Open up the app

4 Pop the phone into your Google cardboard and start watching. If you don't have a cardboard or similar VR viewing device, zoom in and out on your phone's screen and move it around to view


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