NASA photo shows North Korea is in the dark

While you were sleeping, North Korea disappeared.

Well, not exactly. But a recent image taken from the International Space Station shows the mysterious, dictator-ruled country almost completely in the dark.

"The darkened land appears as if it were a patch of water joining the Yellow Sea to the Sea of Japan," NASA noted of the image, taken by a member of NASA's Expedition 38 as the space station flew over East Asia.

Even the capital of Pyongyang (population: 3.26 million) is a relatively dark, compared with smaller cities in neighboring South Korea and China.

The reason? According to a recent report by the Korea Institute for National Unification, electricity in North Korea is "sporadic and unreliable, with homes that have electricity often receiving just a few hours per day." About half of North Korea's 24 million people live in extreme poverty, with most homes and apartments "heated by open fireplaces burning wood or briquettes." And many "lack flush toilets."

According to World Bank data, power consumption per capita in North Korea is just 739 kilowatt hours, compared with 10,162 kilowatt hours in South Korea.

"What is even more startling," Marketwatch points out, "is the lack of progress when the latest image is compared with the one taken 20 years ago. Even as areas in South Korea and China are awash in light, the darkness that envelops North Korea remains untouched. Time has come to a standstill in North Korea."