Israeli photojournalist risks his life by entering North Korea, taking pictures

Despite the growing tensions between North Korea and America, an Israeli photojournalist decided to fly to Pyongyang and see the country with his own eyes. Even though he was being surveilled by government employees, he managed to take pictures documenting the life of those who live under Kim Jong-un’s regime.

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Most people would not dare enter North Korea at the moment. Last week, the Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry warned that Israelis who enter the isolated dictatorship are doing so at their own risk. However, an Israeli photojournalist decided to fly to Pyongyang and see the country with his own eyes.

Moshe Shai entered the country without informing the North Korean authorities of his occupation. “I quietly took pictures every chance I got,” Shai recalled. “I took pictures of what I could…After so many years, I know how to conduct myself, to take pictures without having to look.”

“Once you land, they turn your suitcase inside out,” he continued. “They check everything. They’re meticulous, they don’t give up and there are no games. From the first moment and until the last, you are under surveillance. On the bus, there’s a driver, a female overseer and another female overseer in the back. If I would just sit somewhere or go to the bathroom, there was someone who checked where I was going. They didn’t like it that I was all the time with a camera and I felt that if I would have left the camera [on a seat and walked away], it would be their gain.”

North Korea Photo Credit: Moshe Shai/Channel 2 News

Shai explained that all the places that tourists in North Korea visit are lavish and the locals take part in a large-scale show in order to make it appear as if the life in the isolated dictatorship is perfect. “We arrived at some Buddhist monastery and there were two Buddhists who were obviously not monks,” he said. “I think they were two soldiers who were tasked with acting like monks who support the government. They don’t talk. They just stand there.”

Shai was in North Korea for 10 days and for that entire week and a half, his family in Israel was deeply concerned about his safety. When he finally returned to Israel, however, he had more questions than answers about the life in North Korea.

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