Photos Banned By North Korea, But Smuggled Out. A Rare Look Inside The Country

The Hermit Kingdom, North Korea, strictly controls its image domestically and internationally with government approval required for photos. So, when photographer Eric Lafforgue secretly took and smuggled a set of photos out, it pulled back the curtain and let the world see an unfiltered view of North Korean life.

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 the photo.
In rural areas, bathing in rivers is quite common. It’s not the image North Korea wants though.
Subways double as bomb shelters in the country. This photo included a picture of the tunnel, so officials requested Lafforgue to delete it.
Children working and collecting materials outside, an image North Korea forbids as it depicts poverty.
They even work outside in the fields during hard, economic times.
Cars have only just begun appearing, which is why children still play in the streets.
Any display of poverty or wealth is forbidden. Perhaps that’s why the government didn’t want this photo of someone’s Mercedes revealed.
A street vendor outside. The government requested Lafforgue not to use flash, saying it would scare the people.
A rural bathroom’s cistern shows austere life in the country.
Public transportation is rare and underdeveloped, so you’ll even see soldiers hitchhiking.
The government forbids pictures of soldiers relaxing.
So are pictures of malnutrition.
Worker safety does not seem to concern officials.
The government allows photos of the animals performing, but not the crowd watching. Maybe because soldiers make up the whole audience.
Shopping at supermarkets is reserved for the elite. Even then, the selection is barren, although the stores still stock Evian.
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.
Taking pictures of statues from the rear is forbidden.
The government does not allow pictures of its army.
North Korea presents a strong image of the army to its citizens. Having its soldiers do menial labor goes against this image.
North Koreans required to attend various monuments during the Kimjongilia festival, a festival for flowers named after former dictator Kim Jong-il.
A grey market exists in the carts that sell candy or cigarettes.
Officials attempt to maintain building exteriors, but even then, life looks bleak.
Brooms are never to be placed at the base of official statues.
People pick grass from the park for food and North Korea hates that image.
Photos of anything that don’t work are forbidden. Here, riders push a broken bus.
Power outages are common. When they happen, such as in this art gallery, officials blame the American embargo.
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.

Thanks to Eric Lafforgue, we have a real look inside one of the most isolated countries in the world. These hidden glimpses behind forbidden walls bring mysterious worlds closer in view.

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