Interview with Deathandtaxes Online Magazine
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.
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.
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.
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: