One of the most asked questions for tourists travelling into North Korea is if they will be allowed to document their visit and take photos in North Korea?. After all, pictures of you with North Korean soldiers and at the world’s most heavily guarded border, the DMZ, make for a great Instagram post right?
A quick Google search will fill you with doubt as the many articles come up from people apparently having ‘snuck’ ‘illegal’ photos out of the country. In reality, the vast majority of this is click-bait nonsense. I mean really? How many secret photos in North Korea articles can there actually be!
Most people are pleasantly surprised to hear that you can, in fact, take many pictures in the country. And yes, you can upload these pictures on your social media and blogs afterwards too!
There are just a few rules to follow on taking pictures:
Can I take Pictures in North Korea – No military
Much like in many other countries, photos of the military and military checkpoints are strictly prohibited. Only on a trip to the DMZ can you grab a picture with one of the soldiers – if you ask nicely enough.
No photos of construction sites in North Korea
This is largely due to the fact that military often work on the construction sites, but also one of those weird North Korean quirks that just is what it is. As we say in the DPRK “No Why”.
Photo of the leader’s statues/portraits
Mansudae Grand Monument is a sacred place for Koreans to pay their respects to the leaders. When taking pictures, you should keep your hands by your side and remain respectful. No funny faces or any handstands! You should also ensure both statues are included in the photo, and not cropped in the framing of the shot. Essentially this all boils down to respect. If you can’t show respect when it comes to to the rules about photos in North Korea, then maybe rethink coming at all.
Listen to your guides
There may be some exceptions to the rule of no pictures for only military and construction sites, and if there is anywhere you are not allowed to take pictures of or anything you shouldn’t take pictures of, your North Korean guides will kindly let you know. This may include some gift shops, inside some museums, or taking photos of some portraits of the leaders. If you take a picture of something they are not happy about, they will politely ask you to delete it.
Overall though and as with most things North Korea, do not push your luck and listen to your guides at all times.
Customs/Exiting the country
There is a chance that customs officers will look through your phone and camera for pictures. If you have taken a picture of something that is not allowed (for example you may have a picture with the military in the background by accident), they will ask you to delete it.
So overall when it come to photos in North Korea this an awful lot of myth. Yes it is not as free as say Denmark, but it is more free than South Sudan, or even regular Sudan right now. And don’t forget all those articles in the tabloids about “the photos North Korea didn’t want you to see”. People get photos in North Korea and people take pictures in North Korea.
Any photos in North Korea websites you can recommend?
Here’s an article we wrote on journalists traveling to North Korea here. You are welcome and yes it obviously includes some photos. Overall though we do not promote any click bait photos in North Korea type websites.