These Photos Were Never Supposed To Leave North Korea. Luckily, This Brave Man Got Them Out.

Jan 1, 2014

Most of us know about the political unrest in North Korea, but it's very rare to see images of everyday life in the country. Photographer Eric Lafforgue has explored North Korea six times, smuggling SD cards filled with photos past the Communist borders.

“I was banned after my last trip in September 2012 when I published some photos on the web. The North Koreans saw them and asked me to delete them as they judged them too offensive. I refused as I thought it was unfair not to show the reality of the country."

The photos are striking.

It's illegal to show photos, such as these, of repression and struggle.

Life is brutal and difficult in this region.

Although, of course, complicated and hopeful.

Some of the villagers love their leader.

It's also illegal to photograph the poor.

Almost as though they don't exist at all.

"On the day of the Kimjongilia festival, thousands of North Koreans must queue up to visit various monuments."


The borders of North Korea are seldom seen by outsiders.

And these photos offer a rare glimpse into everyday life.

Modern technology isn't as ubiquitous there as it is in the rest of the world.

Even things we take for granted.

Citizens require permits to travel from town to town.

Interestingly, it's also forbidden to show images of opulent wealth.

And showing soldiers at ease is not permitted.

To say nothing of the malnourishment.

Normal supermarkets are a luxury.

As are the safety standards that we're accustomed to.


"When visiting the delphinium in Pyongyang, you can photograph the animals, but not the soldiers who make up 99 percent of the crowd."

A guard asked Eric to delete this photo, fearing that people would suspect this mother and child as being homeless.

A broom leaning against a statue of Kim II Sung would be a punishable offense.

Even a common photo like this is forbidden and photographers will be approached by guards to delete it.

Photographers are, however, encouraged to photograph people using computers.

It's forbidden to photograph Kim statues from the back.

This is the line to get on the bus.

And what happens when the busses break down.

"In the art centre of Pyongyang, we experienced a power outage, a daily event the North Koreans hate to show. When it happens, they tell you it’s because of the American embargo."

Credit: Eric Lafforgue