Man Uses a Canon 5D Mark II as a Secret Video Camera in North Korea

When’s the last time you saw some amateur video shot from inside North Korea? There’s a good chance the answer is never, given how secretive the country is and how tight the policies are for what outsiders are allowed to do. Photojournalist Steve Gong, however, captured some really high quality video from inside the country using a Canon 5D Mark II.

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 adapter, 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.

It worked, and I was able to successfully bring all the footage back. And the funning thing is, the military officer who was supposed to go through every single picture on my camera didn’t even show up. [#]

Gong is pretty darn lucky he wasn’t caught. Check out this snippet from a travel guide for North Korea issued by the US Government:

If you travel unescorted inside North Korea without explicit official authorization, North Korean security personnel may view your actions as espionage, especially if you are originally from South Korea or are thought to understand the Korean language. Security personnel may also view any unauthorized attempt you make to talk to a North Korean citizen as espionage. North Korean authorities may fine or arrest you for unauthorized currency transactions, for taking unauthorized photographs, or for shopping at stores not designated for foreigners.

Hopefully the North Korean authorities stay oblivious to the fact that the Canon 5D Mark II does video, though that seems pretty unlikely if videos like these go viral.

(via Gizmodo)

  • Matty

    Great pictures but why publicise the camera and the technique you used?

  • Seshan

    It’s interesting, but he didn’t really get anything that they aren’t already willing to show, Check out the show Departures, they went to DPRK, I believe they did 2 1 hour episodes and pretty much everything seen here was in those episodes.

  • Happy Tinfoil Cat

    He’s either very brave or very stupid. Getting something confiscated would be the very least of his worries. Laura Ling and Euna Lee learned the hard way. Luckily a couple US presidents got them out, but someone like this would likely be executed or spend most rest of his life doing hard labor.

    There mere distributing of western movies or bibles will get you executed there. Espionage, even the mere talking to somebody on the street let alone secretly filming them gets you dead.

  • Nutterz13


  • Bas Stoffelsen


  • Frank_Marker

    Bas, maybe he reported it how it was rather than how people would like it to be.

  • chris costello

    I think you risked more than losing your cards and camera!!

  • Ansis

    You shouls probably watch the Vice Guide to North Korea.

  • Tim_willis

    Ummm I wouldn’t say that was a covert mission. I was in North Korea last year and from what I saw in this vid it was all photage from “approved locations” that would not have been censored at all. I hope you had a great time in the DPRK

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  • Brian Swan

    I have to agree with some others here. This all seems to be video of things which the North Korean government does not mind people seeing anyway. I think that to really get video that breaks through the propaganda wall, you would have to get out of Pyongyang which, after all, is the place where the chosen “elite” of the DPRK get to live.

  • Dan

    It was very stupid, and the fact he gave out that lady’s name. Lets only hope nothing happens to her. This is a perfect example when a journalist just does a report and are not concerned about the people in their report. He got to come home safely, she lives there and could be punished for contact with an outside or something….