A Swedish startup has created the world’s first interactive virtual reality model of North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang.
North Korea is one of the most exotic travel destinations in the world, but visiting has its risks. The U.S. Department of State “strongly urges” eager travelers to avoid venturing into North Korea, where foreign nationals have been detained for years for absurd crimes against the regime.
Otto Frederick Warmbier, a University of Virginia student who traveled to North Korea with a tour group, was arrested and sentenced last year to 15 years of hard labor in the North Korean prison system for stealing a political poster.
The new virtual reality app created by SceneThere allows people to visit Pyongyang without having to leave the comfort of their homes. Online travelers need not worry about finding themselves in a North Korean prison camp or funding the regime by supporting its budding tourism industry.
Viewers can look out across Pyongyang by standing atop Juche Tower, a symbol of North Korea’s core ideology and one of the largest free-mason structures in the world.
Beyond the Taedong River are sights like Kim Il Sung Square and Mansu Hill. During the massive military parade marking the 105th anniversary of the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung on April 15, the square was packed with soldiers, tanks, and ballistic missiles. Mansu Hill is home to two iconic statues of young dictator Kim Jong Un’s father and grandfather.
Clicking on blue dots in the app allows users to move through the city, from the banks of the river to the atom-shaped science center to the Mangyongdae Monument, the birthplace of the founder. Each site offers a 360-degree view of the area, so you feel like you are actually in the North Korean capital.
North Korea invited SceneThere’s CEO Marcus Olsson to discuss entrepreneurship in September 2016. The visit to Pyongyang was arranged by Chosun Exchange, a non-profit organization. While in the North Korean capital, the team took photos to develop its new virtual reality platform.
“Virtual reality is a teleportation device. So it’s very interesting technology for any place that has limitations on access,” Olsson told Wired in a recent interview. The new app has its limitations, but it presents a very unique view of a place largely unknown to the world.
Online travelers can check out the web viewer here.
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