Information about anything inside North Korea is hard to come by, but Pyongyang’s metro system is particularly secretive. Access to foreigners has historically been secretive, but one photographer recently made it in, rode the entire system, and has the photos to prove it.

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Elliott Davies was part of the first group of foreigners to visit the entire system. Previously, visitors have only ever seen two stations, creating a conspiracy theory that the entire thing was a sham.

The Pyongyang metro consists of two lines and 16 stations, all buried deep underground. The system holds a claim as the deepest metro system in the world, with some parts of the system buried 110 meters underground. (The Saint Petersburg metro also claims to be the deepest, based on the average depth of stations.)

As you’d expect with such a deep system, the escalator down takes a long time (about four minutes). Luckily, there’s jaunty revolutionary music to pass the time!

The stations themselves are built to double as bomb shelters, with steel blast doors. They’re not spartan though—some of the newer stations are positively opulent, with plenty of wholesome murals depicting happy families and efficient farms.

The trains themselves were imported from East Germany, back when that was a thing. A previous BBC report said that they had authentic East German graffiti, although it appears to have been removed.

There’s far more photos on Davies’s blog, which paints a much more complete picture of the system. It actually looks like a very efficient (and clean!) public transit, which makes the secrecy even more confusing.

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In any case, the rest of the metro images—and other series from North Korea—are a rare candid look inside the world’s most secretive country.

[Elliott Davies]

All images: Elliott Davies

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h/t Justin Westbrook