North Korea, the most isolated country in the world, is known for intensely guarding its public persona. So when French photographer Eric Lafforgue covertly took and smuggled a series of photos out from the country, it gave the world an uncensored glimpse into a terrorized society.
According to Mr. Lafforgue, his intent was to show the world the kind of life North Koreans are unfairly subjected to. Although he is now banned from visiting North Korea ever again for the rest of his life over this exposé, Mr. Lafforgue felt it was his duty to pull back the curtain and let the world see an unfiltered view of North Korean life. These are the photographs Kim Jong-un didn’t want the world to see.
1. A grey market exists in the carts that sell candy or cigarettes.
2. A rural bathroom’s cistern shows austere life in the country.
3. A street vendor outside. The government requested Lafforgue not to use flash, saying it would scare the people.
4. 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.
5. Any display of poverty or wealth is forbidden. Perhaps that’s why the government didn’t want this photo of someone’s Mercedes Benz revealed.
6. Brooms are never to be placed at the base of official statues.
7. Cars have only just begun appearing, which is why children still play in the streets.
8. Children working and collecting materials outside, an image North Korea forbids as it depicts poverty.
9. In rural areas, bathing in rivers is quite common. It’s not the image North Korea wants though.
10. Lafforgue intended to show a relaxing day between mother and daughter. Officials feared he would depict them as homeless, and asked him to delete the photo.
11. North Korea loves to project daily life as modern and always improving, as seen in this leisurely afternoon. Except when they discover there’s no electricity. Then, they ask you to delete it.
12. North Korea presents a strong image of the army to its citizens. Having its soldiers do menial labor goes against this image.
13. North Koreans required to attend various monuments during the Kimjongilia festival, a festival for flowers named after former dictator Kim Jong-il.
14. Officials attempt to maintain building exteriors, but even then, life looks bleak.
15. Power outages are common. When they happen, such as in this art gallery, officials blame the American embargo.
16. People pick grass from the park for food and North Korea hates that image.
17. Photos of anything that don’t work are forbidden. Here, riders push a broken bus.
18. Public transportation is rare and underdeveloped, so you’ll even see soldiers hitchhiking.
19. Shopping at supermarkets is reserved for the elite. Even then, the selection is barren, although the stores still stock Evian.
20. Malnutrition is prevalent in North Korea.
21. Subways double as bomb shelters in the country. This photo included a picture of the tunnel, so officials requested Lafforgue to delete it.
22. Taking pictures of statues from the rear is forbidden.
23. The government allows photos of the animals performing, but not the crowd watching. Maybe because soldiers make up the whole audience.
24. The government forbids pictures of soldiers relaxing.
25. The one that truly got Eric Lafforgue banned. North Korea didn’t like the image that a soldier sleeping in public presented to the world.
26. They even work outside in the fields during hard, economic times.
27. Worker safety does not seem to concern officials.