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 its facade. 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 place."
After Lafforgue came back from his 6th trip to North Korea in 2012, however, the government discovered him sharing secretly taken photos online. They demanded him to take down the images. "I refused as I show all the aspects of North Korea: 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 did'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."