Photographer Eric Lafforgue is one of the very lucky few that have had a chance to see what North Korea is really like. "Since 2008, I have ventured to North Korea six times," he said. "Thanks to digital memory cards, I was able to save photos that I was forbidden to take or was told to delete by the minders."
He's actually a regular Bored Panda user who is responsible for some of the most popular posts on our website, for example 'Highway To Yell In North Korea Which I Captured During The Last Trip' and 'I Introduced Polaroid To North Korea, And It Made People Open Up And Tell Their Stories.'
Lafforgue wasn't interested in the carefully orchestrated tourist trips to the mysterious country, revealing only fake North Korea facts. He wanted to go beyond that, to catch a domestic glimpse of the land and people that aren't under the complete control of the regime. "I was treated like any other tourist," Eric told Bored Panda. "They didn't allow me to take pictures of the police, the army, etc. But with a 300mm zoom lens and a seat in the back of the bus, I could take so many..." He shot thousands of pictures, showing citizens and government officials going about their everyday lives. "As soon as they were opening a new area to visit I tried to go and see it, documenting the life in North Korea."
After Lafforgue came back from his 6th trip to North Korea in 2012, however, the government discovered him sharing secretly taken North Korea photos online. They demanded him to take down the images. "I refused as I show all the aspects of the Hermit Kingdom: the good and the bad. Just like I do with any country I visit. I refused to make an exception for North Korea, and they didn't like this." Soon, the regime banned Lafforgue from crossing its border ever again.
"During homestay meals in the countryside, I could speak with the locals for hours, thanks to my guides. They told me so much about how they live, what they dream of, and so on. The main thing to know is that North Koreans are warm people, very curious about the visitors and very generous, even though most of them own nearly nothing."
Scroll down to see Eric's North Korea pictures for yourself.
Updated: our video team has gathered more information on those images and contacted Eric for additional footage. Check our video for more information.
#1 A Woman Standing In The Middle Of A Crowd Of Soldiers. This Picture Is Not Supposed To Be Taken As Officials Do Not Allow Army Pictures
#2 When You Visit Families, The Guides Love It If You Take Pics To Show The World That Kids Have Computers. But When They See There Is No Electricity, Then They Ask You To Delete!
#4 This Kind Of Picture Is Widespread In The West. The Caption Often Explains That North Koreans Eat Grass From The Park. The Guides Get Furious If You Take It
#5 A Rare Example Of An Undisciplined Kid In North Korea. The Bus Was Driving In The Small Roads Of Samijyon In The North, When This Kid Stood In The Middle Of The Road
#6 The Way You Dress Is Very Important In North Korea. In Town, You’ll Never Find Anybody Dressed Poorly. On This Day, Students Were Dancing In A Park. When I Asked To Take A Picture, The Girl Asked The Man To Straighten His Shirt
#7 As Cars Have Become More Widespread In Pyongyang, The Peasants Are Still Getting Accustomed To Seeing Them. Kids Play In The Middle Of The Main Avenues Just Like Before When There Were No Cars In Sight
#8 Pyongyang’s Subway System Is The Deepest In The World As It Doubles As A Bomb Shelter. Someone Saw Me Taking This Picture And Told Me To Delete It Since It Included The Tunnel
#9 Perhaps The Most Ridiculous Prohibition I Faced: This Official Painter Was Working On A New Mural In Chilbo. I Took The Picture, And Everybody Started Yelling At Me. Since The Painting Was Unfinished, I Couldn’t Take The Picture