Photographer Steve Gong captured footage of his trip to North Korea including his haircut by hairdresser 김혜선 (Kim Hye-Sun), a rare interaction with a civilian of the notoriously clandestine nation. The small glimpse into the Communist country is bizarrely beautiful in its own right, somewhat contrasting with the video VBS.tv’s “Vice Guide to Travel” team shot on their trip. It is, however, worrisome about the safety of 김혜선 as the North Korean government will undoubtedly catch wind of her socializing with Gong and will most likely harass her (or worse).
From Gong’s blog:
A few months ago, I had the privilege of visiting North Korea for a second time. This time to shoot video – something I hadn’t done since Anhui.
Pretty much the only way anyone can visit North Korea is by joining a tour. The entire time while you’re in North Korea, you’re not allowed to go anywhere without minders following you around. These tour guides also restrict the amount of contact you can have with the locals, and it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to have any chances of interacting with a North Korean civilian.
This video is an insight into just that – what interacting with a North Korean civilian might be like.
Spending time with the hairdresser, Kim Hye-Sun was unlike spending time with any of the usual North Koreans you get to meet. She was charming and quirky. For the first time, I felt like I was seeing something real, that wasn’t shown to me.
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.