North Korea is notorious for being a highly reclusive and secretive country.  Having shielded itself from the rest of the world for decades, North Korea is very selective of what images and information from inside their country is released to the outside world.

Over the years, however, photographers have managed to smuggle images and information out of the country that were certainly not approved by the North Korean government.   From incredibly odd, to heartwarming, to downright depressing, this sobering gallery about one of the world’s most militant countries will leave you both confused and heartbroken.

(photo credit: EBAUM’S WORLD)

This Is What Reality Is Like Inside North Korea, This Is Horrible

This Is What Reality Is Like Inside North Korea, This Is Horrible

This Is What Reality Is Like Inside North Korea, This Is Horrible

This Is What Reality Is Like Inside North Korea, This Is Horrible

This Is What Reality Is Like Inside North Korea, This Is Horrible

Kids also work out in the fields during hard economic times. 

This Is What Reality Is Like Inside North Korea, This Is Horrible

Cars are a recent addition to life in North Korea. Because of this, it’s not unusual to see kids playing in the streets. 

This Is What Reality Is Like Inside North Korea, This Is Horrible

While North Korea doesn’t want the pictures of poverty to be shown, they also don’t want pictures of wealth released. They did not want this picture of a Mercedes taken. 

This Is What Reality Is Like Inside North Korea, This Is Horrible

This Is What Reality Is Like Inside North Korea, This Is Horrible

Life in the country of North Korea may not be as modern as they’d like it to seem. This is a bathroom in the home of a citizen who lives in the country.

This Is What Reality Is Like Inside North Korea, This Is Horrible

Because cars are so new, public transportation hasn’t really caught on either. It’s not unusual to see North Korean soldiers hitchhiking.

This Is What Reality Is Like Inside North Korea, This Is Horrible

In this picture, it appears that the North Korean soldiers are relaxing by taking a smoke break. Soldiers are not allowed to relax so this picture was banned.

This Is What Reality Is Like Inside North Korea, This Is Horrible

Pictures depicting malnourishment are not allowed either.

This Is What Reality Is Like Inside North Korea, This Is Horrible

Worker safety isn’t necessarily on the top of the list of concerns.

This Is What Reality Is Like Inside North Korea, This Is Horrible

The North Korean government will allow pictures of animals performing, but not of the crowd watching the performance.

This Is What Reality Is Like Inside North Korea, This Is Horrible

Grocery stores are reserved for only their most elite citizens. There isn’t much on the shelves, but they do carry Evian water.

This Is What Reality Is Like Inside North Korea, This Is Horrible

When Lafforgue took this picture, he thought it was a nice picture of a mother and child relaxing outside. The government thought people would think the two were homeless, and asked him to delete the pictures. 

This Is What Reality Is Like Inside North Korea, This Is Horrible

You can take pictures of statutes, but you cannot take pictures of statues from behind.

This Is What Reality Is Like Inside North Korea, This Is Horrible

Pictures of the North Korean military are not allowed.

This Is What Reality Is Like Inside North Korea, This Is Horrible

North Korea wants their soldiers to uphold a strong image. This picture of a solider doing menial labor is not allowed, because it’s not a strong image.

This Is What Reality Is Like Inside North Korea, This Is Horrible

Residents of North Korea are required to attend the Kimjonilia Festival, where they are also required to visit various monuments. This is a festival for flowers and is named after Kim Jong-il, their former dictator.

This Is What Reality Is Like Inside North Korea, This Is Horrible

A cart where they are selling cigarettes and candy. 

This Is What Reality Is Like Inside North Korea, This Is Horrible

In North Korea, they try to maintain the exteriors of buildings, but this isn’t always the case and many end up looking run down.

This Is What Reality Is Like Inside North Korea, This Is Horrible

Brooms are not allowed at the bottom of any statues, so this picture is banned.

This Is What Reality Is Like Inside North Korea, This Is Horrible

During hard times, North Koreans are often seen picking grass from the park, putting it in a bag, and using it for food. You can see why North Korea wouldn’t like that image.

This Is What Reality Is Like Inside North Korea, This Is Horrible

Pictures of anything that doesn’t work are not allowed. These soldiers are pushing a broken down bus.

This Is What Reality Is Like Inside North Korea, This Is Horrible

It’s not unusual for the power to be out in North Korea. When it happens, they blame it on the American embargo. 

This Is What Reality Is Like Inside North Korea, This Is Horrible

This is the picture that got Eric Lafforgue banned from North Korea. It’s a picture of a soldier sleeping in the grass in public.

Some of these images didn’t seem like much of anything to bat an eye at, but when you are trying to portray the perfect nation to the entire world, I guess you have to be unnecessarily picky about what is exposed. Seeing pictures like these make me very happy to live where I live and be able to have the rights and freedoms that every person deserves.

View more of his work by visiting Eric Lafforgue.