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Contrary to what some might believe, it’s possible to visit North Korea as a tourist – and leave. Despite this, North Korea has harsh laws for what visitors can and especially can’t do. One example: taking any videos or pictures that just might criticize the brutal totalitarian regime is strictly forbidden. An American YouTuber known as Vexxed knew all this when he took a tour there, and he knew what could happen if they caught him. But the guy still snagged totally illegal footage of Pyongyang.
According to Nine.com.au, Vexxed is a twenty-year-old American student currently living in Japan. He was already famous on YouTube for releasing a video accusing dance music channel Trap Nation of crimes and misdeeds. He’s also had beef with DramaAlert host and death threat-spewing racist DJ Keemstar. The guy’s pretty popular, but now he’s given interviews to news sites like Crave Online and Nine.com.au.
Live from North Korea?
The weird thing (besides the obvious) is that at first he made people believe he was doing a livestream. This would’ve been ridiculously illegal and ludicrously dangerous, so the internet naturally freaked out. But Crave Online reported, “he later clarified that it was prerecorded.” It appears he only looped it as a livestream long after he made the actual videos. Doesn’t change that he got rare footage of a place barely anyone’s allowed to capture on film.
Unfortunately, the livestream was soon taken down, briefly causing viewers to speculate that he was caught and punished. Others tried to reupload copies of the video, but YouTube removed them after Vexxed and BroadbandTV, the media company that represents him, filed copyright notices. There are only two sources left: a brief clip from Vexxed himself, and a part from a livestream by vlogger “Egg White.”
The clip, secretly recorded on GoPro, shows Vexxed in Kim Il-Sung Square. Children play and fly kites in front of massive buildings bearing communist symbols and government slogans. Traditional music plays in the background. Vexxed asks a tour guide for permission and someone on the same tour to take a picture as he attempts a handstand. People around him appear alarmed, and some official asks him to delete those pictures. He doesn’t seem to notice that Vexxed recorded the entire thing.
Then When Was All This Recorded?
The project’s been in the works for months. The description on Vexxed’s handstand video says he visited North Korea in January, but Nine.com.au claims he took a “five day tour in December 2016.” Based on his Twitter activity, it seems he went sometime between December 26 and January 6. Vexxed tweeted on the 26th that he was heading to China for a few days to work on a video” and would “be off the grid for a while.” He wrote that he was “Leaving for China now” 18 hours later. His next two tweets were on January 6, so we can assume he returned to Japan that day.
It seems he did go to China at some point in the trip. The next day, he posted five pictures labeled as being taken in Beijing. However, one tweet from January 6 and another from the 7th ask for “a native Korean speaker” the day after. Later that same night he posted about working on a “secret project” that “should be good and unexpected.” Vlogs of an announced trip to China wouldn’t exactly be a surprise. Vlogs of North Korea, on the other hand …
Curiously, the comments on that January 6 post mention a video of North Korea being deleted. Looks like he got in trouble with the legal team of BBTV, as shown by two tweets from five days later. He quoted, “if you upload negative content you will be in breach of contract and you are pretty much declaring war against a not-so-friendly nation.” I haven’t found anything indicating why it was okay for him to upload North Korea videos in March. But this might give a clue for why his livestream, and copies of it, were taken down.
Goodness, Was He Nuts?
Vexxed may seem brave for doing this, and it definitely took guts. He knew that the North Korean government has detained visitors from the West before. He even came close to huge trouble when he asked some hotel workers to take care of his camera for a moment. After waiting thirty seconds, he came back and saw them combing through his videos. “They were watching a video I recorded in a bathroom about having no privacy at all,” he said. The next morning, his guide told him to delete that video, which just proves Vexxed’s point, don’t you think? Worse, “a foreign guide” later told him, “the North Korean guides were talking about whether or not I can be trusted not to make anti-DPRK videos.” It’s remarkable that he left the country at all, but it’s more amazing that he left with footage.
But hey, he got out, he’s in the news, and his subscriber count on YouTube grew big-time. That makes it all better, right? Not to Vexxed. Remembering how he considered fleeing to an embassy, he told Nine.com.au, “I don’t want other people doing the same thing. It’s not worth the risk.” I know some people will do anything for YouTube glory, views, and cash. But kids, please, please be careful. Few people care that much anyway.
Here’s a link to the story of a different person capturing everyday life in North Korea.