A Crack in the Hermit's Door

We are rolling down the highway from Pyongyang to the port city of Nampo in a red Mercedes, speeding past farmland and frozen brown hills dusted with snow. The freeways of Southern California have nothing on this stretch of asphalt, 10 wide lanes between neat concrete curbs. Our guide, who only identifies himself as "Mr. Kim," says 50,000 young "volunteers" spent two years building it, working almost entirely by handNorth Korea can't afford fuel to run machinery. Mr. Kim, a well-educated Foreign Ministry official with a boyish face, spent 13 months laboring on it himself. Flat, gently curved and brand spanking...

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