The Photos North Korea Didn’t Want You To See

The Hermit Kingdom, North Korea, strictly controls its image domestically and internationally with government approval required for photos. For those that make it inside North Korea’s borders, photography is highly-restricted and frowned upon.

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.

Americans seen by north koreans
Terryfing life inside North Korea’s prison camps shown on survivors sketches

The government forbids pictures of soldiers relaxing.

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North Korea presents a strong image of the army to its citizens. Having its soldiers do menial labor goes against this image.


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.


A rural bathroom’s cistern shows austere life in the country.


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.

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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.


Public transportation is rare and underdeveloped, so you’ll even see soldiers hitchhiking.


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