Man Captured Secret Video In North Korea, Lived To Blog About It

In a quest to document daily life in the notoriously secretive North Korea, Steve Gong managed to capture video footage inside the country without anyone noticing. How'd he do it? Well, North Koreans don't know the Canon 5D records video.

Filming in North Korea is a bit of an iffy task, and you never know when a minder may decide to confiscate your memory cards or camera. That was a risk I didn't want to take, so I decided not to reveal to them the fact that my 5D was capable of shooting video. I taped up the back screen with black electrical tape.

Because I shot with Nikon lenses by way of a simple adaptor, I also lost any form of autofocus. Moreover, to be truly covert, it was a good idea to manually focus without looking through the viewfinder anyway.

For a few weeks before my trip, I'd practice every day, shooting with the camera around my neck, manually focussing and composing blindfolded.

Gong had to join a tour group just to get into North Korea, whose citizens are kept at arm's length from outsiders. It's pretty neat to catch even a glimpse of what an average day is like there. [Steve Gong via John Herrman]



    North Korea, a country of normal people doing normal things.

    scariest escalator ride ever!

    North Korea is Best Korea!

    that aside, it reminds me of Chernobyl, but lively and easternised.

    absolutely nothing exciting about that video.

    pretty mundane place really.

      There’s nothing secret about the two stations of the Pyongyang metro that every visitor to the country is taken to see, Panmunjom, the DPRK International Trade Fair, Hanbok-clad tour guides singing banal militaristic karaoke on tour buses, and Kim Il Sung Square…meh…boring.

      The haircut he got is hardly a “real” North Korean haircut because there is no way he’d be allowed to enter a “real” North Korean barbershop. And if he did, there’s no way he’d be able to get a haircut because “real” North Korean haircuts require “real” North Korean currency which foreign tourists are not allowed to possess. Judging by the clean surroundings and women’s friendliness, that barbershop looks like it’s in his hotel.

      Everything on that video has been photographed and videotaped to death. The hyperbole used to describe it whiffs of Wolf Blitzer’s recent antics.

        Concur with boring...might have been more interesting if he had of been able to converse with the hotel hair dressor ....a shame all he could say was "Kam saham nida"

      I think the madness that engulfs the nature of the country makes it for pretty interesting watching. So much security for a country worth so little.

    Here no secretly captured videos on legitimate foreign investment and business – yes, there is – in North Korea:

    Have you heard about the bold vision of the newly established Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST)? More here:

    So... all this time, North Korea has been hiding the fact that... they're just the same as most of us, leading pretty dull and boring lives.

    I'm pretty disappointed! Where are the crazy people??? I was expecting more weird sunglasses and guys in strange military outfits with wacky hair. I think perhaps their leader is miss-representing them!

    that was great

    I found it quite interesting - bear in mind that the places tourists are likely to be allowed to go are not the kinds of places which characterise North Korea, a famine-hit impoverished nation.

    The hairdresser knew he was filming. At around 2:50, she asks "사진 찍나요? 왜? 왜?" which means "Are you taking pictures? Why? Why?". He laughs in response, which she clearly takes to be an affirmative answer. She then says "속상해!" which means something like "How bothersome!"... and then goes about her business.

    Excellent footage of NK. We interviewed Steve about the making of this video. Check it out:

    Looks like pretty standard tourist "walk around". They will never let you see 39.562 126.020986 & leave to tell about it.

    i think its a very interesting video - normal people doing normal things - more polite and orderly than any western city.

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