Interview with Deathandtaxes Online Magazine

The online magazine Deathandtaxes recently asked me some questions about my firsthand experiences traveling in North Korea – check out the full interview here !

A question from the interview:

I saw a short video online made by a guy who visited North Korea  back in 2011. The video is shot like it’s hidden in his jacket or something. It seems like you were just freely taking pictures. How were you able to do that? Is it a misconception that photos and video aren’t allowed in North Korea?

There are quite a few sensationalized videos out there and I think they present an entirely wrong impression of what the tourist experience in the DPRK is all about.  There are some photography rules, but when the North Korean guides see that the group is diligent about following those rules they tend to relax and let everyone have some photography freedom.  It helps that I keep my groups relatively small and manageable at around 10 people.  With a group that size we can really develop a positive relationship, developing an optimum situation where the guides feel secure and in control enough to let us enjoy more freedom while not feeling that we are putting them at risk.

Conversely I have witnessed a full tour bus of about 30 camera touting foreigners clearly disregarding the photography rules within the first couple hours of their trip.  The North Korean guides are responsible for the rules broken by the tourists under their care, and this group’s North Korean guides were clearly upset.  The remedy to these situations is easy, punish the tour group by restricting access to sites.  That group was allowed to drive to sites but only got to visit the parking lots.  We saw them restricted to the bus at the Hamhung fertilizer plant, a site where we were given full and unrestricted photography access.

The Q & A above allows me the opportunely to highlight a few photos from my experience with the tour group that lost its access to sites over its disregard to the photography rules.

West Sea Barrage, North Korea

Both tour group crossed the West Sea Barrage on the same morning.  The above photo shows the entrance to the eight-kilometer-long road crossing – this is a perfectly acceptable photo.

West Sea Barrage, North Korea

There were amazing photography opportunists as both buses got stuck in the midst of a crowd of North Korean locals on bicycles; barrage road transportation was delayed as ships passed through the locks.  We were directed not take pictures at this time, we didn’t.  Those on the other bus did and lost access to other sites because of it.

Locals waiting for ships to pass through the locks – I took the above photo from the West Sea Barrage visitors center on the hill above, we were not prohibited to take photos from there.

North Korea Fertilizer Plant Hamhung

We later met the other tour group at the Hamhung Fertilizer Plant. We were granted full access to the site.  The other group never developed their relationship with their guides and were restricted to the bus and not allowed to take photos.

Below are more photos from our visit to the Hamhung Fertilizer Plant:

North Korea Fertilizer Plant Hamhung

North Korea Fertilizer Plant Hamhung

North Korea Fertilizer Plant Hamhung

North Korea Fertilizer Plant Hamhung

North Korea Fertilizer Plant Hamhung

Hamhung Fertilizer Plant, North Korea

North Korea Fertilizer Plant Hamhung

North Korea Fertilizer Plant Hamhung

North Korea Fertilizer Plant Hamhung

3 responses

  1. A fantastic article – you certainly show another side to North Korea than we are led to believe exists! I am an avid reader and am slowly working my way through your most interesting posts.

    February 7, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    • Thanks – I might have up to five trips into the DPRK this spring, looking forward to posting fresh insights and pics!

      February 7, 2013 at 12:35 pm

      • Looking forward to reading them too!

        February 7, 2013 at 12:36 pm

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