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Yet these country roads, lined with stone monuments emblazoned with the words for “self-reliance” and “military first,” bustle with people hauling corn and rice balanced on their heads, strapped to their bicycles or packed into wooden V-frames. Red flags flutter in the fields to signify that the harvest is under way. Billboards exhort the farmers to work hard and bring in a good harvest.

“Let’s carry out the Great President Kim Il-sung’s orders thoroughly!” says one.

“Let’s build a strong and prosperous nation our way!”

Matthew Pennington reported from Washington.