A French photographer named Eric Lafforgue was minding his own business, snapping pictures of people in North Korea, when all of a sudden an official told him that he was no longer welcome in the country. It turned out that a group of Spanish communist tourists who were wearing Kim Jong Il t-shirts overheard him when the Frenchman said that the Spaniards are more than likely never going to wear those shirts back in Spain. The Spanish tourists became extraordinarily offended and upset and reported Lafforge to the North Korean authorities.
Thus marked the end of the Frenchman’s North Korean adventures and the end of his photo escapades documenting the lives of average North Koreans. The Frenchman had visited the Hermit Kingdom six times, and each time he went, he managed to take secret shots of scenes from the average person’s life in that closed off pariah state. His pictures are some of the best evidence the outside world has of what is really going on inside the country.
Many of these pictures do not show the regime in a good light despite being quite objective and, many would argue, innocent. They show that the country of North Korea and their people are poor, malnourished, overworked, exhausted, and brainwashed.
News reports out of the country are heavily censored, and no one can really know what is truly going on behind the veil of the so-called Hermit Kingdom. While it is generally well known that Kim Jong Un is the current leader of the country, and while it is a fact that North Korea is indeed in possession of nuclear weapons, things such as the structure of the government, military, and the military’s capabilities are quite unknown.
That is what makes these pictures so interesting. They are some of the only pictures which in any way accurately portray and show to the outside world what life in North Korea is like. For instance, there are two grocery stores in the country, but many people fish in lakes and rivers for food while children are forced to work the fields.
Step behind the curtain of the Hermit Kingdom and see what life is like for the average person in that cut-off, mysterious land.