According to Wikipedia, International organizations have assessed that “human rights violations in North Korea have no parallel in the contemporary world”. Going to the isolated country which is still a mystery for the rest of the world as a tourist may not sound fun to some, but for Eric Lafforgue, it was his duty and pleasure to be able to bring an inside look at North Korea to the rest of the world. The accomplished photographer who has published in Nat Geo, the Daily Mail and Der Spiegel, among others, is one of the very lucky few that had a chance to see the real North Korea, taking numerous illegal photos, as tourists in the hermit Asian country are not allowed to take photos of the army, the police, etc.
“Since 2008, I have ventured to North Korea six times,” he said in an interview. “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.”
Eric knew that he was not allowed to break the rules, and he was treated like any other tourist.
“I was treated like any other tourist,” Eric told BoredPanda. “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…”
That’s how he was able to take pictures of citizens and government officials. “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 that he had shared secretly-taken photos. They wanted 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 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.”
More info: ericlafforgue.com | Instagram
Here is a selection of Lafforgue work taken on the Korean Peninsula, compiled by BoredPanda.
1. Woman is standing in the middle of a crowd of soldiers
2. When Lafforgue visited families, the guides would tell him to take pictures of kids with computers to show the world they do have them, although there is no electricity
3. The guides get furious if you take this kind of pictures because people often think that North Koreans eat grass
4. The way you dress is very important in North Korea
As students were dancing in a park, this lady asked the man to straighten his shirt before taking a photo.
5. An undisciplined kid
A rare sight indeed! The picture was taken when the bus was driving on the small roads of Samijyon in the north of the country.
6. Soldiers help on local farms
7. Pyongyang’s subway system is the deepest in the world because it is also a bomb shelter
8. Cars are becoming more widespread, but are still uncommon
9. Also, it is forbidden to photograph malnutrition
10. A mural on Chilbo Mountain
Because the painting was unfinished, the photographer was not allowed to take a picture
11. Soldiers relaxing
12. When you are visiting the Delphinium in Pyongyang, you are not allowed to take photos of the crowd
Almost 99% of the crowd comprises of soldiers.
13. Queueing… it is a big deal for North Koreans
14. In a Christian church, an official is dozing off on a bench
15. People fooling around in front of the Kim portraits
16. A fisherman uses a tire as a vessel
17. Rural home
The families foreigners visit are carefully selected by the government. Then, you have this weird bathroom that is also a cistern.
18. When you sleep in Kaesong, you are staying in a hotel complex comprising of old houses
19. The pioneers camp of Wonsan is often visited by many tourists
When children from the countryside come, they are afraid to use the escalators as they’ve never seen them before.
20. A soldier sleeping in a field
21. The photographer was not allowed to shoot with flash so as not to scare people off
22. Working conditions
23. Lafforgue was forbidden to take pictures of the poor
24. As the photographer was shooting with his own TV crew, the government sent two cameramen to film them
25. A common sight in North Korea
Here are some strict rules that only exist in North Korea.