North and South Korea from space. North Korea is barely visible at night.
North Koreans are literally being kept in the dark, a stunning new image taken from space shows.
While South Korea appears to be bathed in light in the nighttime image, snapped from the International Space Station, its northern neighbour is shown sitting virtually in darkness.
In fact, it is easy to mistake the communist state for a vast section of ocean.
NASA released the image, taken by an Expedition 38 crew member on January 30, which tells the tale of two vastly different Koreas.
"Unlike daylight images, city lights at night illustrate dramatically the relative economic importance of cities, as gauged by relative size," NASA said in a statement.
South Korea's population is roughly 50 million and the land teems with light in the photograph.
In contrast, North Korea is home to an estimated 24 million people, and yet hardly any lights are visible in the country beyond the capital, Pyongyang.
"In this north-looking view, it is immediately obvious that greater Seoul is a major city and that the port of Gunsan is minor by comparison," NASA said in a statement accompanying the image.
"North Korea is almost completely dark compared to neighbouring South Korea and China. The darkened land appears as if it were a patch of water joining the Yellow Sea to the Sea of Japan."
NASA said the light emission from Pyongyang, which had a population of just over three million in 2008, was equivalent to the smaller towns in South Korea.
"Coastlines are often very apparent in night imagery, as shown by South Korea's eastern shoreline," NASA said.
"But the coast of North Korea is difficult to detect. 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."
Last week, a United Nations panel warned North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that he may be held accountable for orchestrating widespread crimes against civilians in the secretive Asian nation.
Those alleged crimes range from executing and torturing prisoners to systematic abductions and starving mass populations.
It is unusual for a UN report to directly implicate a nation's leader. But in a letter accompanying a year-long investigative report, the chairman of a three-member UN commission of inquiry, retired Australian judge Michael Kirby, directly warned Kim that international prosecution is needed "to render accountable all those, including possibly yourself, who may be responsible for crimes against humanity".
Fairfax Media with AP