North Korea attempts to present itself as a socialist workers' paradise where the conundrums of good governance have been solved by the supernatural brilliance of Kim Jong Il and his late father and founder of the country, the "Great Leader", Kim Il Sung.
The contradiction of North Korea includes both the nuclear armed military dictatorship of the extravagant monument-studded capital Pyongyang and the rest of the country, unbuttressed by modern agricultural techniques that, after floods in the late 1990s, between one and three million died of hunger.
North Korea is a place of tension and anticipation. Fed on propaganda and lies, North Koreans are usually the last to learn what is happening behind the scenes in their country.
It remains what it has been for 15 years--an anachronism, bankrupt economically, politically and intellectually that, according to conventional theories, should have collapsed years ago under the weight of its own contradictions.