It is a regime shrouded in secrecy – and images captured from space show that North Korea is also cloaked in darkness.
Images of the region taken at night by Nasa astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) depict an almost completely dark North Korea, compared to its brightly lit neighbours South Korea and China.
The pictures, which were released yesterday and reveal the lack of power available to those who live in the isolated state, were taken on 30 January using a Nikon D3S camera. The Korean peninsula was previously captured in 2007, but the new pictures are far more vivid.
The capital city of Pyongyang is the only bright spot in an otherwise mass of blackness, but it still appears dim in comparison to Seoul, South Korea's capital city.
In a statement, Nasa said: “North Korea is almost completely dark compared to neighbouring South Korea and China. The darkened land appears as if it were a patch of water joining the Yellow Sea to the Sea of Japan. Its capital city, Pyongyang, appears like a small island, despite a population of 3.26 million (as of 2008). The light emission from Pyongyang is equivalent to the smaller towns in South Korea.
“Coastlines are often very apparent in night imagery, as shown by South Korea’s eastern shoreline. But the coast of North Korea is difficult to detect. These differences are illustrated in per capita power consumption in the two countries, with South Korea at 10,162 kilowatt hours and North Korea at 739 kilowatt hours.”
A damning report by the UN earlier this month accused the regime of imposing "unspeakable atrocities" on North Koreans and called for those responsible, including leader Kim Jong-un, to face justice.