Why did South Korea Just Ban Selfie Sticks?

A selfie stick could leave you stuck in jail!

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© 2017 Flickr - Floris Oosterveld

Selfies, along with action cams and drone filming are one of the fastest growing areas of photography in 2014. While some might call them an obvious expression of the narcissistic culture created by ever-present social media, their popularity seems to be ever-increasing. This has driven tech manufacturers to build phones and products specially suited for taking even better selfies.

Among the most common of these is the so-called ‘selfie stick’. These devices take the form of a long pole (generally around 1m in length ) which at their end is a bracket for holding a smartphone. Sticks like these have, for better or worse, become immensely popular and now you can see them in great numbers at any major tourist site around the world.

But now one government is saying enough is enough.

In South Korea, users of a selfie stick can now face up to 3 years in prison. This seems absolutely crazy (and almost certainly is), but does the South Korean government just really hate the selfie? Actually no. The problem is more of a technical and bureaucratic one than a specific vendetta against the devices.

The country has a law which states that all devices which emit ‘electromagnetic radiation’ need to be approved by a certain government body, and the use of unregulated devices is illegal. As many selfie sticks utilise a Bluetooth connection in order to take photos at a distance, they fall into the category of devices which require regulatory approval. Given the recent influx of these devices into South Korea from China, many users could unknowingly be risking jail time by using an illegal device.

While this law might scare some way from from using the devices, this will be an incredibly hard law to enforce. The sticks are incredibly popular in South Korea, and determining which sticks are illegal Bluetooth transmitters, and which aren’t is a time consuming process. Knowing this, for better or worse, it looks like the sticks are here to stay.