Bird watching in North Korea

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.

The Sunday"gang" out for bird watching, in North Korea

The Sunday”gang” out for bird watching, in North Korea

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.


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8 Responses to Bird watching in North Korea

  1. Pingback: Leben und arbeiten in Nordkorea: Interview mit dem Entwicklungshelfer Gerhard Tauscher (III) | Nordkorea-Info

    • admin says:

      Eher nicht, es ist zwar eine universelle Freizeitbeschäftigung aber mit Teleobjektiv und Kamera ist man in DPRK immer verdächtig und irgendein “Blockwart” schaut dann min. nach dem rechten….

  2. Kent Schumer says:

    For years birdwatchers have enjoyed studying bird in their natural environment courtesy of a pair of binoculars. While bird watchers appreciated the convenience of the binoculars, they were frustrated by the fact that they were unable to take photographs of their subjects. Some birdwatchers got around stopped using their binoculars and switched to studying birds through long range zoom cameras. While this was great for birdwatchers, what about people who were drawn to the see, whale watchers often worried about taking their expensive digital cameras on board ships because they were afraid of what the water and salt would do to the camera’s delicate mechanisms.,

    See all of the most recent blog post at our new web portal

  3. How boring birding here! Any kind of nature discovery requires a freedom so that it will be enjoyable and fun. Don’t choose such a restricted area.

  4. Richie says:

    …It must have been a different experience with birding under a ‘more like military occupation’ . A detail description was expected.And with pictures certainly ! It’s great that everywhere people are the part that really crave for freedom and they are the part from whom you can expect the hospitality. With the expensive it might have been risky. Anyways, nothing happened . That’s the good part. And We wanted to be a part of the experience with detail description. Thank you! 🙂

  5. John says:

    Though it’s not a perfect birding area but good to know that you have the great day of birding in North Korea. Your sunday gang’s pic is superb. Please next time choose a better place and must share with us with birds photo. Happy birding.

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