Daily Mail: The first Instagram photos posted from North Korea: Colorful images prove app can make the grimmest of places look beautiful

By Damian Ghigliotty

The rest of the world got another recent rare glimpse into the secretive realm of North Korea.

Jean H. Lee, the Associated Press’ Korea bureau chief based in Seoul and Pyongyang, released what are believed to be the first Instagram pictures to come out of the reclusive totalitarian country.

Lee’s pictures hit the web just a few days after North Korea’s only 3G mobile operator Koryolink opened its mobile data services to foreigners last week. Koryolink is jointly run by state-owned Korea Post and Telecommunications Corporation and Egypt's Orascom Telecom Holding.

In mid-January 2013, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt visited the country with his 19-year-old daughter Sophie, who posted numerous photos taken from within North Korea's borders along with her impressions of the country.

Schmidt, his daughter and seven others, including former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, were allowed to enter the country to promote the use of Internet service, which the majority of North Koreans have never had access to.

The small group was given a tour of one of North Korea’s tech facilities, but told to leave their phones and laptops behind in China or their devices would be confiscated when they arrived across the border.

Sophie Schmidt managed to bring along her camera.

'Very, very cold and very, very strange,’ she later wrote on her blog. ‘Our trip was a mixture of highly staged encounters, tightly-orchestrated viewings and what seemed like genuine human moments.’

The controversial trip that the Schmidts took to North Korea apparently paid off.

On February 22, the country's government, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, announced that it would allow foreign travelers to use wireless Internet on their mobile devices while inside the country.

View Jean Lee's Instagram page here.

View some of Sophie Schmidt's photos from North Korea below.

Daily Mail Jean Lee.png