Can I take Photos in North Korea?
In short: Absolutely! The long version, yes but it’s complicated…
North Korea has many reputations and stereotypes that precede it. In recent years however it has become easier and easier to take as many cameras as you want and shoot much of what you want.
As long as you adhere to a few easy to follow rules of course.
When I first visited North Korea I went fully expecting my camera to be checked frequently with stern minders constantly telling me what I can & cannot photograph.
What turned out was much more liberating than what was expected. I was never asked to delete any pictures. Pyongyang was more or less completely open for Photography. Even cities like Wonsan and Hamhung were quite relaxed. When exiting the country at customs, I was advised to keep SD cards hidden in separate places. However I needed to not worry at all, no cameras or phones were checked once.
That’s not to say that there is nothing you cannot photograph. There are still several rules to adhere to when visiting North Korea. Sticking to them will earn your trust with your local guides and allow you to see and do more during your North Korea Tour.
Photographing the Military
You cannot photograph the military. This goes without saying in many countries around the world. In North Korea it’s a bit different as they possess the 5th largest standing army in the world.
Sometimes you can’t help getting military personnel in the shot but this is OK as long as you are not seeking out active army members to photograph.
It should also be noted that no photos of construction sites are allowed in North Korea. This is due to that fact that the army are used as labour on construction projects.
Photographing the leader’s statues & portraits
When shooting the statues of the great leaders, the entire height of the structure should be framed from the front. When posing in front of the statues then hands should always be by your side & out of your pockets.
Not that anyone would, or want to, but it is definitely frowned upon to photograph anything that portrays the country in a negative light. This means shooting homelessness, poverty, uncleanliness, obvious faults in infrastructure etc. Sometimes it is easy to accidentally do this which is acceptable. Generally if you take a picture of something they are not happy about, they will politely ask you to delete it.
Pay attention to your guides
if you want to shoot something or someone and you are not sure if it’s possible, ask your guides. Sometimes you will pass through checkpoints where photography is naturally forbidden. Make sure to listen to your guides and they will point these out to you.
That’s pretty much it, play by these simple rules are you will capture 99% of what you want to shoot while on tour. North Koreans are more and more proud of what they possess and they are happy to show it off.