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This Intrepid Photographer Flew A Drone Into North Korea

One intrepid photographer flew his drone right over a North Korean city to capture unique, uncensored images of the secretive country’s street life.

In a fairly daring move that could have at least led to the loss of his drone (if not also cause bigger legal consequences), a photographer flew his drone into North Korea from the border city of Dandong, China in 2020.

The individual, who goes by the Reddit handle XiaoHao2, posted about his adventure on March 28 on the Reddit site. In the post, he shares a series of photos that offer a very rare unfiltered glimpse into the daily life of North Koreans (though as seen from the air).

As XiaoHao2 very briefly explains in the post, “Drone pics of North Korea, I was in China, my drone flew across the border,”

The photos show scenes of fairly austere street life in a North Korean urban area that’s named as the border city of Sinuiju in North Korea. It sits right across the Yalu River from China and its border city of Dandong.

The authenticity of the photos is hard to doubt.

For example, one of the government buildings clearly captured in the Redditor’s post very obviously corresponds to a structure found right in the center of Sinuiju, close to numerous other government offices:

Aerial view of an urban area with labeled local government offices.

Many other structures and sites visible in the photos could only have been taken over North Korea.

Also, where else in the world would numerous buildings be plastered with images of North Korea’s two deceased previous leaders, Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il?

According to the photographer, the drone images were captured roughly 2 kilometers or 1.2 miles inside the border and they state the obvious by mentioning that this activity is illegal. No surprise there.

XiaoHao2 adds, “Now it’s geofenced, but this was taken in 2020.”

All risks aside, the photos are a fascinating and candid glimpse into a country that’s famous for strictly forbidding any unapproved photos or videos within its borders.

Tourism to North Korea is more common now than it used to be, but all formal visitors are carefully watched at all times and photography of anything that isn’t explicitly allowed is forbidden.

In some of XiaoBao’s photos, people can be seen looking up at the drone, surprised and in a couple of shots it looks like someone is rushing to notify authorities about the UAV.

Aerial view of an urban area with several mid-rise buildings and a clear sky. Aerial view of two individuals walking on a patterned pavement next to a road. Aerial view of an intersection in a residential area with buildings and parked cars. Aerial view of individuals gathered near a building with bicycles on an urban pavement. An aerial view of an individual crossing a wide street intersection with a group of people standing by the sidewalk.

What the photos also clearly reveal is an extremely austere urban landscape with very few people walking the streets.

These were images from 2020 though, so this might partly have been because of early anti-COVID restrictions, which North Korea apparently did enforce.

Many of the comments below the images are full of speculation and curiosity about North Korea and as far as I was able to see, most comments are also quite supportive of the Redditor.

Some also warn him (or her) about the dangers of what they did. As one other user mentions,

“That is so so so cool, but not smart. The Chinese government has a tight relationship with North Korea, returns escapees, helps prosecute criminals. IF your flying a DJI drone they have even more info on you, info that would allow them to track you down after the fact. So be careful”

This is indeed a valid point, and the government of China does have close diplomatic and legal relations with the North Korean government of Kim Jong Un.

Given the extreme popularity of the recent Reddit post, it’s not impossible to suppose that it may have come to the attention of authorities from either country.

Both governments routinely monitor overseas internet activity for information they deem dangerous to their interests and have been known to act on it in the past.

China in particular is known to do this at scale and the North Korean government is actively working to decrease available information about its country online. A post like XiaoHao2’s stands a high chance of causing the individual trouble.

XiaoHao2 has so far proclaimed themselves to be “alive and free” and has been careful about preserving their anonymity.

However, this post became extremely popular almost immediately. Since being posted 9 days ago, it has received over 142,000 upvotes and been shared more than 6,800 times on Reddit. That makes it unlikely to go unnoticed by authorities somewhere in either China or North Korea.

It’s worth noting here that the user claims to have flown the drone across North Korea’s northern border.

To many in the West, thoughts of the Korean border bring up images of the massively fortified and deeply monitored Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea.

The country’s northern border with China, though also carefully watched by North Korean authorities, is much less deeply secured.

Credit : Source Post

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