Not everyone gets the chance to see what North Korea is really like but this photographer Eric Lafforgue is one of the lucky people who got a chance to do it. Eric said “Since 2008, I have ventured to North Korea six times. Thanks to digital memory cards, I was able to save illegal pictures that I was forbidden to take or was told to delete by the minders.”
Eric was least interested in the carefully orchestrated tourist trips to North Korea that only reveals its facade. He wanted to capture the things beyond that. The things where he can see that the people and land aren’t under the complete control of Kim Jong Un. “I was treated like any other tourist,” he said. “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 clicked hundreds of illegal pictures, showing government officials and citizens 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.”
So here are a few illegal pictures that Kim Jong Un surely didn’t want us to see!
1.When Visiting The Delphinium In Pyongyang, You Can Photograph The Animals, But Not The Soldiers Who Make Up 99% Of The Crowd.
2.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.
3.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.
4.Soldiers Often Help On Local Farms
5.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.
6.A Visit To A Rural Home. Those Houses And The Families Who Live There Are Carefully Selected By The Government. But Sometimes, A Detail Like A Bathroom Used As A Cistern Shows That Times Are Hard.
7.In A Christian Church, This Official Was Dozing Off On A Bench. You Must Never Show The Officials In A Bad Light.
8.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.
9.When You Sleep In Kaesong, Near The Dmz, You Are Locked In An Hotel Complex Composed Of Old Houses. It Allows The Guides To Say “Why Do You Want To Go Outside? It’s The Same As In The Hotel.” No, It’s Not!
10.One Night, On The Way Back To The Hotel My Bus Had To Take An Alternate Route Due To Street Closures. As We Passed By Old Buildings, The Guides Asked Me Not To Shoot With Flash. The Official Reason Was “To Avoid Scaring People”
11.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.
12.The North Korean Officials Hate When You Take This Kind Of Picture. Even When I Explain That Poverty Exists All Around The World, In My Own Country As Well, They Forbid Me From Taking Pictures Of The Poor.
13.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!
14.Perhaps The 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.
15.The Pioneers Camp Of Wonsan Is Often Visited By Tourists To Show The Youth From All Over The Country Having Fun. But Some Children Come From The Countryside And Are Afraid To Use The Escalators Which They’ve Never Seen Before.
After he came back from North Korea that was his 6th trip back in 2012, the government found out that he was sharing some illegal pictures of the country online and wanted him to take it down. But when he was asked to delete the illegal pictures he said “I refused as I show all the aspects of North Korea: the good and the bad. Just like I do in any country I visit. I refused to make an exception for North Korea and they didn’t like this.” But then Eric was banned from crossing the borders again and visiting the country.
“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.” said Eric.