Photographer Taylor Pemberton posted a rare series of Instagram photos from his visit to the Hermit Kingdom earlier this month. On a four-day trip with a state-sponsored tour group, the 26-year-old captured locals playing volleyball and Pyongyang's incredibly opulent metro stations. His hotel featured a sensory overload of casino games, bowling lanes, ping pong tables and a rooftop restaurant.
"My mind was racing through every step of the process," Pemberton told The Huffington Post of his arrival into the new Pyongyang International Airport.
Tourists are not allowed to leave hotel grounds and explore the shuttered country on their own; they almost always must book through North Korean-sponsored tour groups, which host guided tours during the day but don't allow visitors to leave the hotel at night. Tourists may take photos with a guide's permission.
Pemberton said he hopes that his pictures will inspire travelers to consider a visit to North Korea, but points out that a tourist's highly controlled view of the country is not its whole story.
"There’s this big elephant in the room while you're being treated to these amazing [grand] presentations," Pemberton said, adding, "I think it’s important to remember that my perspective of North Korea is only a very small sliver of what’s actually happening."
Want to see more? Here's a reporter's view of the North Korean countryside:
Also on HuffPost: