What to make of the “North Korean Life” TikTok channel

A new social media account purporting to be from North Korea almost certainly isn’t. The “North Korean Life” channel appeared on TikTok over the weekend and quickly amassed 121,000 followers. At the time of writing, it had collected more than 2 million likes and 33 million views.

The channel currently has 17 videos and claims to show “Life in North Korea” and lists its location as the country. But a close look at the videos suggests they are probably shot by tourists, likely from China, rather than a channel operated by a North Korean citizen or state media outlet.

The first video posted is a brief clip of the Pyongyang Metro along with a caption labeling the station as “Pyongyang Station,” but there is no Pyongyang Station on the city’s metro service. The station appears to be Puhung Station, a common starting point for tourist rides on the Metro.

Several of the other videos showing rural and city life are shot from inside vehicles, such as the second one posted to the channel. The houses in the background of the video appear to be those at the entrance to Panmunjom.

A video of Pyongyang city trams, called “cable cars” in the video, is shot from a vehicle, as is a video of people “Returning home from work and school in North Korea” and the video “Driving through the North Korean countryside.”

The video that has attracted the most attention on the channel is the third one uploaded. Entitled “My daily morning walk in North Korea,” it shows a street in Kaesong City and appears to have been shot from outside the Tongil Restaurant, a Pyongyang-style cold noodle restaurant that is a stop for Chinese tourists.

Another video, titled “Young boy prideful of his motherland,” appears to show a tour inside Panmunjom approaching the Armistice House. This is an area that ordinary North Koreans are not permitted to enter.

And another video of rural North Korea, “The North Korea western media doesn’t show you,” is another clue that the channel isn’t run from North Korea. While the state media does sometimes attack foreign reporting, the anti-“Western media” phrasing isn’t commonly seen and is much more likely to be used by overseas supporters of the country.

In general, any social media channel claiming to be run by a North Korean citizen should be regarded with suspicion. Average North Koreans have no access to the Internet, and publishing their own content is prohibited. In the case of this new TikTok channel, it’s also highly unlikely that an average North Korean would be able to travel freely around the country. Permits are usually required for long-distance travel.

That this channel contains videos from Chinese tourists does not necessarily mean it is run from China. The videos are easily downloaded from Chinese social media sites and it just as easily could be run from outside the country.

There are some social media channels run by North Korean organizations, but those are affiliated with state-run media outlets.

An affiliate of 38 North