Politics

North Korea Tells Visitors Not To Bring “Porn”

Foreign visitors to North Korea have been warned not to share outside media with citizens.

Officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent out a note urging foreign residents not to participate in the spread of “undesirable content” in North Korea, writes James Pearson for Reuters.

North Korea Tells Visitors Not To Bring "Porn"

Foreign media banned in North Korea

The flow of information in and out of North Korea is tightly controlled by authorities, and most North Koreans cannot access the internet or foreign media. However the practice of sharing content on USB sticks is a growing concern.

According to reports, North Korean citizens regularly share films, music and literature on pen drives, which are easy to hide from authorities. Foreigners living in Pyongyang have been warned not to introduce “undesirable content” from outside the country.

Reuters has seen a copy of the note sent by the Ministry, which banned foreigners from importing “all kinds of data media, including printed matter, mobile phones, and memory sticks” containing “false propaganda,” as well as “photos, movies, and literature regarding sexual relations.”

Information poses threat to security

The note alleges that such “undesirable content” had been found at tourist sites in the country, either in printed form or on memory sticks, and some foreigners had even passed such information directly to North Koreans.

“We regard these practices as a serious problem directly related to the security of the State,” said the note, which was sent out to diplomatic and international missions on Thursday.

“Accordingly concerned authorities of the DPRK are taking such measures as strict censorship over printed matters and memory media at every port of entry to the DPRK, including the airport,” it continued.

Foreigners on diplomatic passports are not subject to direct censorship, but North Korean authorities warned that anyone discovered to be transporting offending material “must bear all the blame to themselves, entailing appropriate measures here.”

According to diplomatic sources in Pyongyang, foreign embassies are currently investigating the possibility that the note infringed the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which lays out the fundamentals of diplomatic immunity.

Foreign residents under increased surveillance

Surveillance of foreign residents by North Korean security services has become increasingly strict over the last few months. In early June, a fire broke out at the Koryo Hotel, which is popular among foreign visitors. Several foreign onlookers were caught taking photos of the fire, and apprehended by security personnel.

Images of the fire were distributed by foreign outlets before the event was reported by North Korean state media, a fact which presumably annoyed officials in Pyongyang. Later, access to popular image-sharing app Instagram was found to be restricted over the country’s 3G network, which usually affords foreigners access to social media.

Despite the lack of an official announcement on the subject, it is thought that the restriction may have been imposed due to the leaked images of the fire. After a week of disruptions to the service, it was returned to normal this week. Although Instagram users based in North Korea are few, their photos have posed problems for authorities thanks to the window that they provide into daily life in the secretive nation.

Although long-term expatriates can buy a North Korean SIM card in order to access the internet on their smartphones, surveillance of foreign nationals appears to be increasing. In April this year, the director of German NGO Welthungerhilfe was expelled from North Korea without any explanation.

Increased surveillance may be due in part to the difficult situation that North Korea finds itself in. An ongoing drought is causing great damage to agricultural production, and high-level diplomatic missions have been dispatched around the world, possibly with the aim of forming new alliances.