Inside Kim's Korea; WORLD EXCLUSIVE: MIRROR'S 8 DAYS IN THE SECRETIVE STATE; We reveal regime's harsh realities.
THE gleaming buildings of Pyongyang portray an image of North Korean perfection Kim Jong-un wants the world to see.
Alongside the magnificent tower blocks across the city stand proud monuments of the dictator's grandad Kim Il-sung and dad Kim Jong-il.
Propaganda banners adorn bridges and pavements instructing the people to honour their leaders' "sacrifice" fighting Japanese and US imperialists.
But away from the city sparkle lies the true harsh reality of life under the Kims' twisted version of socialism, where desperate peasant workers carry out backbreaking work and pick crops with their bare hands.
And the Mirror was there to witness it after we gained unrivalled access to parts of the secretive country rarely seen by foreigners. During our exclusive eight-day stay we were able to travel more than 100 miles from the capital and saw first hand how the regime rules with an iron grip.
And as Kim showcases his devastating arsenal of military power in a muscle-flexing warning to the West, his ordinary subjects starve.
Outside Pyongyang, home to three million of the brainwashed "elite", lies a desolate countryside where 20 million farm workers scratch out a miserable existence.
Their toil remains the lifeblood of the nation while regime enjoy the fruits of their Many millions of acres without even the most industrial machinery, land that claims to be the most advanced world and boasting ability to launch a nuclear e kingpins labour. es exist st basic y, in a one of in the of its lear attack on its enemies. The vast rivers which should be a bustling avenue of trade are devoid of activity, the scenery occasionally split up by a few labourers breaking rocks on the riverbed.
Soldiers regularly survey peasants' work leading them to live in fear and they are near, even nothing to do.
We saw one women pick up stare at the ground reprimanded by an sign of the level of exists in this dystopian like nation. Kim's ambitions have further crippled the country as stringent sanctions have banned the trade deals it needs to survive. His meeting with US president Donald Trump promised to herald a new beginning for the country, with the despot vowing to dump his nukes and set his country on the path of economic development.
And yet, despite the absence of the intercontinental ballistic missiles he has been so keen to show off in previous years, the warped attitudes show no sign of fading.
Western defence officials say North Korea is regularly employing "deceptive tactics to evade UN sanctions" and have raised fears that Kim has no desire to deplete his nuclear capability. Satellite imagery of the Sanumdong facility near Pyongyang has shown recent signs the regime is building one or possibly two ICBMs - the exact ones Trump wants Kim to give up or face even harsher global penalties.
But it would seem Kim's loyal subjects stand by him too, which we discovered when at the behest of the regime we attended the incredible 70th anniversary celebrations of the country's foundation on Sunday.
One government official with us smiled broadly when asked if the lack of hardcore weaponry on show meant the regime was backing down to Trump. He said: "The Supreme Leader will never do anything that reduces our position when the threat against us is continual."
The Pyongyang parade involving 300,000 military and civilians was followed by a Mass Games in the world's largest stadium featuring 100,000 performers, many of them children. It was a sight to behold.
This was the best of the best and exactly what 35-year-old Kim and his cronies wanted us to see, believing we too would be convinced of both his and the nation's power.
He attended both events and waved enthusiastically to his subjects, whose deafening roars of support could leave no one in doubt of their devotion to their idol.
Kim's regime contacted the Mirror after we exposed it for using child to build railway lines in the country's northern provinces in 2016.
Following 18 months of tense negotiations, we managed to secure visas to enter in time for this week's foundation anniversary.
We were assigned senior officials from the Ministry of Information to act as our "guides". They attempted to convince us of how the pariah state is an all-powerful yet inclusive nation, where everyone lives in "harmony and happiness to serve the country".
While the Foreign Office advises against all but essential travel to the country a few thousand people a year can visit North Korea as "tourists".
Comedy actor Michael Palin, 75, next week releases a two-part documentary that will apparently see him go "beyond the politics" in a bid to discover more about the everyday life of the secretive nation. But travelling with a tour company, like Palin, is unlikely to reveal the darker side to life that still exists. The lack of free will was evident from the moment we stepped off the plane.
We were given "press" armbands, not permitted to leave our hotel without our minders and kept in a constant state of limbo over arrangeslaves ments for our stay. We would often be kept in the dark for hours and then need to leave at a moment's notice.
A complete ban on advertising, state TV stations dedicated to pumping out propaganda dressed up as news and entertainment, all bolster Kim's surging popularity and contributes to the desensitisation of the entire population. From as soon as they are able, children are ordered to repeatedly chant the name of the "Supreme Leader".
And they must devote their lives to serving him and the memory of the "great leaders" Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. This despite them presiding over years of devastating war, famine and isolation.
But while the rest of the country struggles to survive, the city folk keep up the pretence of utopia, among the shiny buildings.
Pyongyang's tallest is the 105 storey, 330m tall Ryugyong Hotel.
Fitted with an LED system on the exterior, an array of images and propaganda messages can be seen for miles across the capital and beyond.
The point bears a moving image of the North Korean flag as soon as night falls. But as with most things here, everything is not what it seems.
The building has cost an estimated PS500million to construct but it is just a mere shell. It has no floors, no interior, no substance.
Perhaps the perfect metaphor for the country.
Commuters emerge from Pyongyang Metro CITY
Elderly women load rocks from a river bed on to a truck COUNTRY
At the sight of an official, a women worker busies herself maintaining the grass verge with a stick OBEDIENCE
The 105-storey Ryugyong Hotel looms over the capital, but is still unfinished, despite the work starting in 1987 FOLLY
A lone cyclist makes use of a crumbling empty road on the edge of the capital Pyongyang DERELICT
A giant mural of Kim Jong Il stands out on the Pyongyang metro system PROPAGANDA
Woman poses in front of massive arch CITY
Derelict flats overlook desolate fields COUNTRY
inside Mirrorman with press armband