PHOTOGRAPHER Eric Lafforgue has ventured into North Korea six times.
Using digital memory cards he smuggled out images of the communist nation he was forbidden to take.
Mr Lafforgue wanted to show that North Koreans are humans, not robots, who also suffer.
“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,” he told news.com.au.
He said life outside Pyongyang and the main towns was tough for the locals.
“Life is brutal in many places of North Korea, far from the Western standard.”
In a small fishing village, where Mr Lafforgue visited multiple times, he was treated like an honoured guest. The town was so isolated they had never seen a mobile phone and they spent their days fishing and growing seaweed.
“Even with their hard life, they told me, with tears in their eyes, they venerate the dear leaders … even if sometimes they do not have a lot to eat.”
These are the photographs Kim Jong-un didn’t want the outside world to see.
‘This soldier was sleeping in a field. This picture really contributed to me getting banned from the country.’ Source: Eric Lafforgue
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.
‘The North Korean army is said to be one of the most important in the world. But if you travel there, you’ll often see soldiers doing menial tasks like helping farmers.’
‘Outside urban areas, such a scene is fairly common.
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.’
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.’
‘When times are hard (as they usually are here), kids can be found working for the farming collectives.’
For a long time, bans against black market sales have been strictly enforced. Grey market vendors are more common. They earn a little money selling cigarettes or sweets.’
On the day of the Kimjongilia festival, thousands of North Koreans must queue up to visit various monuments.’
Pyongyang is supposed to be the showcase of North Korea, so building exteriors are carefully maintained. When you get a rare chance to look inside, the bleak truth becomes apparent.’
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.’
‘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.’
‘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.’
‘Public transportation connecting the main towns is nearly non-existent. Citizens need permits to go from one place to another. On the highways, you can spot soldiers hitchhiking.’
‘Showing poverty is forbidden, but displaying wealth is also a big taboo in North Korea. In a park on a Sunday afternoon, I found this car that belongs to one of Pyongyang’s elite. The owners were having a BBQ.’
It is forbidden to take pictures of soldiers relaxing.’
It is also forbidden to photograph malnutrition.’
‘You can find all kinds of food and drink in Pyongyang’s two supermarkets where things are sold in both euros and wins. They even have Evian water. Only the elite can shop there.’
‘It’s not a circus, they are workers in a country with low safety standards.’
When visiting the delphinium in Pyongyang, you can photograph the animals, but not the soldiers who make up 99 per cent of the crowd.’
‘Paranoia is strong in North Korean minds. I took this picture at a funfair of a tired mother and child resting on a bench. I was asked to delete the picture since the guides were certain I would have said those people were homeless.’
This is never supposed to happen: a broom standing on the base of Kim Il Sung’s statue in Mansudae, in Pyongyang.’
‘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.’
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.’
‘It is absolutely forbidden to take a picture of the Kim statues from the back. It is considered very rude.’
‘Queuing is a national sport for North Koreans.’ This is the line for the bus.
This is what happens when the bus breaks 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.’
Photos by – http://www.ericlafforgue.com/