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.