28 Glimpses Into North Korea's Technological... Prowess?S

By now you may think that North Korea is only good for nuclear bluster and general insanity. But! Beneath that strange veneer lies actual technology, architecture, and design.

Some of it's just a little more polished than others.


North Koreans look at a new homegrown tablet at a trade fair at the Three Revolution Exhibition Hall in Pyongyang Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012.

28 Glimpses Into North Korea's Technological... Prowess?S

Photo: Vincent Yu/AP


A North Korean woman uses a mobile phone on a sidewalk in Pyongyang. About one million people in North Korea own cellphones, although they're not allowed to make international calls or go online.

28 Glimpses Into North Korea's Technological... Prowess?S

Photo: Kim Kwang Hyon/AP


A Korean People's Army artillery unit participates in a live fire drill in North Korea. Image released on Monday, Feb. 25, 2013.

28 Glimpses Into North Korea's Technological... Prowess?S

Photo: KCNA/KNS/AP


A televised shot of North Korean workers operating equipment at North Korea's main nuclear reactor in Yongbyon, Feb. 22, 2008.

28 Glimpses Into North Korea's Technological... Prowess?S

Photo: APTN/AP


A North Korean student works at a computer terminal inside a computer lab at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang, North Korea on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013.

28 Glimpses Into North Korea's Technological... Prowess?S

Photo: David Guttenfelder/AP


Scientists and technicians at the General Satellite Control and Command Center on the outskirts of Pyongyang watch the launch of the Unha-3 rocket from a launch site on the west coast, in the village of Tongchang-ri, about 35 miles from the Chinese border city of Dandong, North Korea on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012.

28 Glimpses Into North Korea's Technological... Prowess?S

Photo: AP


Scientists and technicians work on their computers to control the launch of North Korea's Unha-3 rocket at the General Satellite Control and Command Center.

28 Glimpses Into North Korea's Technological... Prowess?S

Photo: AP


A large Toshiba TV screen shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attending the Supreme People's Assembly's yearly meeting at a hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012.

28 Glimpses Into North Korea's Technological... Prowess?S

Photo: Vincent Yu/AP


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in 2012, reacting on a ride as he attends the completion ceremony of the Rungna People's Pleasure Ground in Pyongyang.

28 Glimpses Into North Korea's Technological... Prowess?S

Photo: KCNA/KNS/AP


A North Korean vehicle carrying what appears to be a new missile passes by during a mass military parade in the Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, to celebrate 100 years since the birth of the late North Korean founder Kim Il Sung on Sunday, April 15, 2012.

28 Glimpses Into North Korea's Technological... Prowess?S

Photo: Ng Han Guan/AP


A little girl take photos during a soccer match between women's grassroots teams at Kim Il Sung Stadium on April 3, 2011 in Pyongyang, North Korea.

28 Glimpses Into North Korea's Technological... Prowess?S

Photo: Feng Li/Getty Images


The local trolley buses in Pyongyang, North Korea.

28 Glimpses Into North Korea's Technological... Prowess?S

Photo: Feng Li/Getty Images


A North Korean woman crosses the street near the semi-completed 105-story Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea, Thursday, April 26, 2012.

28 Glimpses Into North Korea's Technological... Prowess?S

Photo: Ng Han Guan/AP


North Korean military jets take part in an air drill while North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, not seen in the photo, inspects an undisclosed airbase in North Korea, in 2012.

28 Glimpses Into North Korea's Technological... Prowess?S

Photo: KCNA/KNS/AP


Puhung Subway station in Pyongyang is situated more than 100 meters below the surface. It is also a nuclear shelter.

28 Glimpses Into North Korea's Technological... Prowess?S

Photo: Feng Li/Getty Images


A woman swipes a North Korean debit card at the cash register of a hotel restaurant in Pyongyang, North Korea. A new culture of commerce has arisen, with China as its inspiration and source. The new consumerism is part of a campaign to build up the economy, and with it the image of new leader Kim Jong Un.

28 Glimpses Into North Korea's Technological... Prowess?S

Photo: David Guttenfelder/AP


North Korean music cassette tapes are displayed for sale at Pyongyang Department Store No. 1 in downtown Pyongyang.

28 Glimpses Into North Korea's Technological... Prowess?S

Photo: David Guttenfelder/AP


A shop employee waits for customers at Pothongmun Street meat and fish shop in downtown Pyongyang.

28 Glimpses Into North Korea's Technological... Prowess?S

Photo: David Guttenfelder/AP


Pyongyang's May Day stadium is the world's largest, with capacity of 150,000.

28 Glimpses Into North Korea's Technological... Prowess?S

Photo: Feng Li/Getty Images


North Korean children learn to use the computer in a primary school.

28 Glimpses Into North Korea's Technological... Prowess?S

Photo: Feng Li/Getty Images


A man records video of the scenery as he and fellow hikers climb to a peak of Mount Kumgang, North Korea.

28 Glimpses Into North Korea's Technological... Prowess?S

Photo: David Guttenfelder/AP


Not e-book, pop-up book. A North Korean teacher holds open a children's book, which depicts a U.S. soldier killing a Korean woman with a hatchet, in a library room at Kaeson Kindergarten.

28 Glimpses Into North Korea's Technological... Prowess?S

Photo: David Guttenfelder/AP


Rocket science in every day life: a 2013 calendar, showing a picture of North Korea's Unha-3 rocket, hangs inside a hair salon in Pyongyang.

28 Glimpses Into North Korea's Technological... Prowess?S

Photo: David Guttenfelder/AP


Two North Korean men have their digital photo taken by a relative after finishing games of bowling at a Pyongyang bowling alley, 2012.

28 Glimpses Into North Korea's Technological... Prowess?S

Photo: David Guttenfelder/AP


A North Korean drone (probably a mockup) passes by during the mass military parade to celebrate 100 years since the birth of the late North Korean founder Kim Il Sung. Note the old camera on the left.

28 Glimpses Into North Korea's Technological... Prowess?S

Photo: David Guttenfelder/AP


A North Korean librarian monitors the usage of computers at an electronic library at the Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang. Hardware: HP. Software: North Korean original.

28 Glimpses Into North Korea's Technological... Prowess?S

Photo: Ng Han Guan/AP


North Korean guide Kim Won Ho shows journalists a model depicting a North Korean satellite over planet earth at the Three Revolutions exhibition hall. According to North Korea's official version of things, the country's first venture into space was 14 years ago, when the "Bright Shining Star 1" satellite roared into orbit and began broadcasting marching music praising Kim Il Sung.

28 Glimpses Into North Korea's Technological... Prowess?S

Photo: Ng Han Guan/AP


These two Instagram photos were taken by AP photo reporters early winter in 2013, when foreigners were allowed for the first time to bring mobile phones into North Korea. Now the local service provider, Koryolink, is allowing foreigners to access the Internet on a data capable 3G connection on mobile phones.

28 Glimpses Into North Korea's Technological... Prowess?S

Photo: David Guttenfelder/AP//Jean H. Lee/AP


Top photo: David Guttenfelder/AP