The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) or better known as North Korea is quite a rare travel destination. Just some travelers on educational trips, book some official tours, to see, mainly the monumental sites of DPRK. Nobody would have the idea to come here to enjoy nature and wildlife.
A small group of about six people, out of the international community living permanently in DPRK, started to organize themselves and go for Bird watching on Sundays.
In total, it’s just some 200 international staff, plus their family members, who live in DPRK. They work for the embassies, United Nations, International Non Governmental Organizations and the Red Cross Movement.
In general there are some difficulties connected with outdoor tours in the country side.
DPRK has one of the biggest militaries in the world. Some 1,2 Mil troops serve the country, which is formally still at war with the USA. DPRK has roughly some 24 Mil population.
The freedom to travel, within the country is heavily limited for the entire foreigners. Just some locations outside the capital Pyongyang can be accessed freely. All other locations need to be accompanied by governmental “counterparts” and need an official permit at least a week in advance.
Military and defense installations are all over the country and that the last thing a bird watcher would like to see in the back ground of a picture, neither in the binocular, nor in a photograph.
When I came here in August 2011, I did leave the Leica spotting scope, right away at home. The 400mm zoom lens , mounted on a single lens camera, does already grab enough attention. So, often the Olympus SP-800UZ was the more convenient choice. In a country where there is just state media, no internet, no possibility for ordinary people at all to call abroad or send Email.
In the outside world, very little is known about DPRK, some professional optical equipment looks suspicious.
Ordinary people are simple and are not used to foreigners. There is very often some type of “Block warden” , who thinks that he does see something suspicious, when the bird watchers come across. We often need to remember that the activities as such looks strange to many people back home.