The History of the Camera… According to North Korea

If you’ve always wanted to learn about the history of the photographic camera as taught by the North Korean government, today’s your lucky day! Here’s a 15-minute educational video on camera history that was broadcast for children in the “hermit kingdom” (you can turn on English auto-translation in the video’s settings).

The segment was spotted and shared by Tomohiko Kawaguchi, a professor in the College of International Relations at Nihon University who covers North Korean news as “dprknow” through his blog and YouTube channel.

Kawaguchi reports that the episode, titled “History of inventions seen in manga, camera”, was rebroadcast last month during the Children’s Broadcast Time time slot on Korean Central Television, a TV service owned by the North Korean government.

Illustrations of cameras through history, as seen in the episode.

The video steps through camera history starting from the camera obscura and Joseph Nicéphore Niépce’s oldest surviving photo from 1826/1827 through 35mm film photos and the digital camera revolution over the past two decades. It covers the breakthroughs made by several of the best-known pioneers, including Louis Daguerre, Henry Fox Talbot, and George Eastman.

The overview also discusses instant cameras, starting from its birth when Polaroid founder Edwin Land unveiled his invention in 1947. However, the video falsely explains that instant cameras died off when digital cameras landed on the scene, leaving out the fact that Fujifilm’s Instax business has been booming in recent years even as the digital camera market has been rapidly shrinking.

The host of the segment holding a Fujifilm Instax camera.
The host asked this “comrade photographer” to help demonstrate the instant camera by taking a picture of her.
The resulting Instax instant photo.

Kawaguchi says that people in North Korea don’t seem to know that instant cameras still exist and that he was asked by a customs official to take the memory card out of his Instax camera during a visit to the nation. As a result of this experience, he decided to append a short clip of his own Instax camera to the end of the segment, shooting an Instax photo of his dprknow logo to show that instant photography is alive and well.