The black hole of North Korea

Last updated 16:57 25/02/2014

A time lapse from Malaysia to the North Pacific Ocean reveals an unusual sight on the Korean peninsula, filmed from the International Space Station in January. (No audio.)

EYE OPENING: A crew member on the International Space Station took this night image of the Korean Peninsula. At the top is China, at the bottom is South Korea and in the darkness is the North.

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North Korea is a dark place to live - literally as well as figuratively, the latest Nasa pictures show.

A satellite image of the isolated communist state taken on January 30 showed North Korea almost completely devoid of lights.

It appears as a black hole, looking almost like a body of water between China and South Korea, joining the Yellow Sea to the Sea of Japan.

The only exception is North Korea's capital Pyongyang, with a population of 3.26 million (as of 2008), in the southeast which is illuminated by city lights similar to the smaller towns in South Korea.

The rest of the country and its 24 million inhabitants are in the dark, apparently because of a lack of energy supply.

Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un runs the impoverished country with an iron grip. He reportedly wiped out an entire branch of his family, following the "purge" of his powerful uncle last year.

Just recently, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said Kim and his security chiefs should face international justice for ordering systematic torture, starvation and killings comparable to Nazi-era atrocities.

The Nasa Earth Observatory website commented North Korea was "almost completely dark compared to neighbouring South Korea and China" in the photograph.

"Coastlines are often very apparent in night imagery, as shown by South Korea's eastern shoreline. But the coast of North Korea is difficult to detect," the observatory said.

"These differences are illustrated in per capita power consumption in the two countries, with South Korea at 10,162 kilowatt hours and North Korea at 739 kilowatt hours."

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