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Once Upon a Time in Pyongyang

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Three young girls play on the steps of a building. At the turn of the 20th century, Christian missionaries opened girls' schools, granting Korean women access to modern education for the first time. When the Korean Peninsula split in 1945, the North applied communist principles of gender equality, placing a particular emphasis on the participation of women in economic production -- an approach that is still taken today.

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A man rides a donkey in front of a barren landscape and wears a traditional Korean hat called a gat. Typically made from horsehair and bamboo, these hats date from the Choson dynasty before the Japanese occupation and were traditionally worn to signify rank.

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A young girl stands with a baby strapped on her back.

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A street vendor sells goods on a busy Pyongyang sidewalk.

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A view of the Eastern Gate of Pyongyang's original walled city, also known as the Taedong Gate due to its location on the banks of the Taedong river. The present gate -- built in 1635 after its predecessor was burned down during 16th-century Japanese invasions -- is one of the oldest structures in the capital city.

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Men gather under the Seven Star Gate, or Chilsong Gate. The name refers to the Big Dipper constellation, which points to the North Star -- signifying the gate's northern orientation. In the early 20th century, parts of the ancient city were razed to make way for electric-car lines, but many of the gates were preserved as historical monuments. The shots that marked the start of land-based battles in the Russo-Japanese War were fired from the top of this gate.

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The city's population surpassed 200,000 under Japanese colonial rule as it began to industrialize and morph into a provincial capital. It was not until after the Korean War (1950-1953) that Pyongyang was built into the city we know today, with wide boulevards and imposing monuments.

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Once Upon a Time in Pyongyang - By Marya Hannun

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Two young boys play in front of a schoolhouse. The Japanese used education to erase Korean national identity in the latter part of their occupation; the Korean language was banned from schools and citizens were required to use Japanese names.

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A man dines on a traditional Korean meal, composed of small dishes and rice. Prior to the Japanese occupation, the peninsula was divided into administrative provinces that largely retained regional cuisines. Today, the food around Pyongyang consists of grains and meat dishes designed for enduring the country's notoriously harsh winters. Food shortages are common in the Hermit Kingdom due to mismanagement and a lack of arable land.

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