This Journalist Took Portraits In North Korea And People Opened Up To Tell Their Fascinating Stories
Photographer and artist Eric Lafforgue visited North Korea for the first time in 2008. At the time, there were no mobile phones in the country and the only pictures people were taking were thanks to the "official government sanctioned photographers" who stood at the entrance of the main monuments. Essentially, photography wasn't common among residents.
So, every time Eric took a picture, he quickly snapped another one to offer to his subjects. According to Eric, many people opened up when he offered them a photo, and decided to share their stories (which is an incredibly difficult thing to get out of someone in North Korea, as people are generally not allowed to say much to tourists).
For more information on Eric, check out his website.
This is Miss Kim. She was a French speaking guide at the War Museum. I met her 5 times during my trips, and she kept on telling me she learned French in Pyongyang university. In fact, I learned later that she spent her childhood in Algeria where her father was a diplomat. But for the sake of propaganda, she was advised to tell people that she learned it in North Korea, to give the impression that people can learn a second language perfectly in their education system.
This woman's job was to sell flowers to visitors (including tourists) so that they can lay them in front of the statues of the Leaders in Mansudae Hill in Pyongyang. It cost 3 euros for the flowers. But here's the best part: as soon as someone put the flowers on the monument, an old lady would come, take the flowers, and resell them.
In Pyongyang, I took the polaroids of the women working at a restaurant. Then, the owner came and asked for one, in English! She (the owner) was the wife of a high ranking North Korean diplomat. She had lived in NYC for 2 years. When I asked her what her impression of Americans was, she said they were very fat, nice people.
On a Sunday afternoon, on the Taedong river in Pyongyang, the North Koreans come to have a BBQ or a picnic. It's a very different atmosphere, with lots of Soju (rice alcohol) and smiles.
Here's an interesting "behind-the-scenes" fact about Pyongyang (one of the most visited city by tourists)... it is a completely governmentally organized representation of North Korea. Only those deemed "healthy" looking or of a certain wealth are allowed to live in the city, and even still only a select few may interact with tourists.
The perception visitors are allowed to see is a completely false reality, fully under the control of the government, from those living in Pyongyang, to the guides that interact with tourists.
Every new couple comes to Mansudea hill to pay respect to the dear Leaders' statues in Pyongyang on the day of their wedding (can somebody say ideal honeymoon?! We all want to go see statues after we get married, right? RIGHT?!) By looking at their face, this couple does not look happy to be there.
Here are some guards inside the subway, taking care of the arrivals and departures of the wagons. Usually, they act like little robots, for the Polaroids they became humans!
In the countryside: bikes and farms. No cars, nothing else.
Here is a picture taken in the countryside. In Pyongyang, depending on the mood of the Leaders, riding a bike is not possible for women. In the countryside, there is no choice but to move from one point to another, but occasionally women will be punished.
Another interesting law in North Korea is that every household must display a portrait of their leaders in the house. When visiting some houses, I asked the people where they wanted to stand for the picture, and everybody answered: "Below the dear Leaders' portraits". Once, I had to do the Polaroid again as the Leaders portraits were cut. Unacceptable.
My guide asked me to throw away this Polaroid as I took the picture from the back. It is forbidden to take the picture from this angle in North Korea, as it's seen as disrespectful.
This was taken during a visit to a kindergarten in Hamhung, in the sleeping room for the kids.
Here are two North Korean guides at the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum (aka the War Museum) in Pyongyang. For two hours they explained, (with tons of lies), the "glorious victories" of North Korea against the American imperialists.
Here, a North Korean colonel stands with a soldier on the DMZ (a demilitarized strip of land that runs between North and South Koreas, important for negotiations between the two lands) in the part where you can see South Korea through binoculars. First, he refused to pause, but when he saw the Polaroid of one soldier, he ordered me to take one of him too.
Here is a waitress playing accordion in a restaurant. The tradition in many North Korean restaurants (at least in Pyongyang) is that once the waitstaff have finished serving food, they all come to sing.
Here is a cook in a restaurant in Pyongyang with a Hello Kitty apron. When I asked her about Hello Kitty, she didn't know what it was. She thought it was a North Korean character.
Here's a colonel on the DMZ. He was speaking about peace, about the oppression of the Americans, and the day after the meeting North Korea was going to have a nuclear test. He asked to have one Polaroid in front of the South Korean building to show his wife where he was working.
Here is the DMZ from the North Korean side. As there were no South Korean soldiers or American soldiers on the other side. The guide said that they were afraid to be seen. Cowards, he said.
Accordion classroom in Mangyongdae Schoolchildren's Palace, in Pyongyang. This is a visit that every tourist does. The guide opens the door and for 30 seconds you can see accordion, dance, singing, calligraphy Meanwhile, the guide keeps on telling them: "We are late, we are late" and closes the door abruptly.
Here is a worker woman in the mineral water factory of Nampo. The guide was so proud to show us this factory, and especially excited that it had been visited by President Mitterand before he was elected in France. But in fact, the sound of the machines was incredibly loud and aggressive, and everybody was sorry for this young worker who had to stand there during our touristic visit. She was forbidden to leave her position to take the Polaroid picture.
Our pets are part of the family.
Any person who doesn't get that is not someone I can know.
They are there through it all.
They help with the good, the bad and the ugly.
So when it comes to choosing between a pet and a person... the answer can make things awkward.
Redditor sugar-soad wanted to know how everyone would choose between a lover and a fur baby, so they asked:
"People who were made to choose between your pet or your partner, how did your ex react when you chose your pet?"
One of my exes wanted me to return my dog to the pound.
Notice I said... EX?
The lovecat dog GIFGiphy
"It really baffles me how some people don't understand how much a pet can mean to someone, I remember one of my dogs dying overnight before a school day at secondary school and my teacher mouthed off to the class about me taking a day off for a pet's death."
"This was a long time ago but I just started dating this person and I was told they hated my dog, it was a bit of a shock but I was like no biggie just get to know my dog and you will fall in love with him."
"So the next time, we had a doggie date and HE TRIED TO KICK MY DOG. I literally grabbed my dog and turned around and walked away. And that was that!!!"
"This is my favorite story from when I worked in a shelter. A guy came in to surrender his cat, with the reason that his girlfriend didn't like her. He starts filling out the paperwork, but partway through he just stops and says, 'Screw this. I'm just going to break up with her instead.' He picks up the cat and walks out the door, presumably to leave his GF. I hope he stuck to it and he and his cat got a happy ending."
"Not directly relevant, but we once took in a dog, whose human was asked to make this choice. Beautiful weimaraner. The guy brought the dog out to our house (on a hill in the woods with acres to roam - dogs absolutely love it out here - and we spent some time walking around letting the dog get used to the place and meet our other furry residents."
"We could tell it was really hard on both of them when he left."
"The next day he kicked the woman out, and came back for the dog. Happy ending all around, I'd say."
MomentosDog What GIF by Best Friends Animal SocietyGiphy
"Not my story but my friend. His GF forced him to choose between her or dog but that dog was remaining memento from his deceased mother and of course he instantly dumped his GF. His GF went from facefull with expectations to beet red full of shame and anger and smashed his house windows when she left his house."
Never asked for someone to make choice between a person and a pet.
Living LongerCats Reaction GIF by TikTok MENAGiphy
"I remember him saying my diabetic cat needed to go so he could get a dog. We weren't even living together. I looked him dead in the eyes and said. 'My cat will outlive this relationship' considering she was really sick at the time he said it was unlikely and stormed off. We broke up 6 years ago and my cat is still going strong."
"I have an elderly rat (going on four years, which is quite the feat for a rat). I’ve raised him since he was a baby with his brother, who passed away two winters ago. When we moved in with my in-laws over the summer, they didn’t want me to bring my rat. I straight up told my partner that I’ll live somewhere else for awhile (we’d been living together for almost three years at that point) because my rat is my responsibility."
"He’s very old, and that I was going to see him through to the end. They were a little upset and accused me of choosing the rat over them, but I explained that he’s an animal that relies on us. It worked out, I convinced my in-laws to let me bring him, and we’re all still kickin. He’s on his last days and I’m glad I’m here with him. He’ll be buried with his brother when it’s time."
"She acted like she'd never even considered I'd choose the cat over her. I don't think that thought had ever entered her mind. Then she went into a big spiel about how I'm a loser, I'm missing out, there's only one of her, etc etc. Yeah, I knew all that when I put my foot down over her idiotic jealousy of the cat liking me more than her."
"The cat is now 16 and still with me, happy in her senior years. There's been other women since her, ones that treated me a lot better than she did. It was a total win for both the cat and myself."
"Not me but my sister choose our cat over her boyfriend of 4 months. He was furious when she dumped him and called her an idiot for picking a 'dirty fleabag' over him. Cat was not a dirty fleabag, he just hated pets and wanted to try to control my sister. I was relieved when she dumped him. I never got good vibes from him."
BYEWhite Dog GIFGiphy
"My ex asked me if she thought my dog liked me or her more and I said me. She got genuinely mad and told me I am supposed to just lie to her, didn't last long."
Pets will always win.
Have you ever had to make a similar choice? Let us know in the comments below.
As adults, whenever you see teenagers being boisterous or rough-housing others, we tend to roll our eyes and move, chalking it up to youth.
I don't know about you, but when I was younger, in high school, I felt invincible and acted accordingly with my classmates without a care in the world.
But there is such a thing as going too far, and even teens who know better, generally know when they've overstepped a boundary.
Curious to hear of those instances, Redditor Silent-Zebra asked strangers online to reflect back on their youth.
"What's something that a friend/classmate did in high school that was seen as funny at the time, but you now realise was actually not ok?"
The cruelty of these students showed no bounds.
Why An Elevator Was Installed
"Had a kid in my year who'd had a surgery that left a nerve bundle in his neck exposed. If pressed it would paralyse him. From memory it was for spina bifida and for some ungodly reason he told everyone."
"Certain boys took great pleasure in going down stairs behind him and pressing it which completely paralysed him for a few seconds and he'd fall like a brick. Usually onto whoever was in front of him."
"So dangerous. There were a fair few teeth knocked out because of this, his and other people's."
"It happened so much that in his 3rd year the school installed an elevator and you had to have a special key to use it. He got the only permanent issue key at that time."
"Kids are a**holes."
Teachers Are People Too
"In the 6th grade, I had a friend who was a troublemaker and a class-clown. I’ve always hated going to my math class because my teacher was a cranky old lady who’d yell at you for the smallest things. Me being an 11-year old, I actually had the worst anxiety just knowing I could be the next person yelled at in front of the class. The one thing that helped get through the year was that friend cause I knew he’d always make jokes and have me almost in tears cause they were that funny."
"One day, when my teacher walked out to use the bathroom, that friend went over to her desk, picked up the mug she was drinking out of, and spat out the biggest loogie into it. We all saw it and just waited for her to come back. 10 mins later, as she was just normally teaching, she picks up her mug and chugs it down. Everybody just starts laughing and giggling, including me, but nobody said anything when she questioned it. It was horrible but I wasn’t about to be the kid who snitched."
"Later on during the school year, I guess we had a day where it didn’t start at the normal 7:30am but instead 10:30am, but I didn’t know so I showed up really early. A bunch of kids didn’t get the memo so we were all just placed in the cafeteria until school actually started. Around 9ish, my math teacher noticed I was sitting out in the cold and invited me to her class where it was warm. When I got there, she let me work on my missed homework and even let me eat breakfast in her class. She asked me about home life, school life, if I had any friends, etc. she made me feel welcome. She then told me about her life, about her only son, about her husband who passed away from cancer 20 years back. She was very sweet."
"This was like back in 2008, and I think she was like 70 years old. I don’t even know if she’s still alive after all these years. But I wish I could go back and stop my 'friend' from doing what he did. :("
Imprisoning The Teacher
"Our religion teacher went into the cupboard for supplies, she was quite strict and not liked but now I’m an adult I realise it doesn’t excuse what happened next. The class clown snuck up and locked her in the cupboard. We all thought it was hilarious at the time and we all left the class. She was in there for the rest of the class until another teacher found her in there crying an hour later. She took 2 weeks off after that"
Adults later realized the severity of some bad behavior back in the day.
"Few messed up kids in my primary school lit a teachers car on fire, just because she gave one of them failing grade on midterm. It wasn't one of the mean teachers, she was mostly nice to students. Cops got involved but don't think they got punished accordingly, i know one of them was in and out of juvie already, and were all around 13- 14yr old, one was even in nazi sh*t. I know later on those kids got all tangled in dealing and robberies, probably all went to jail at some point."
"In our school there was a teacher who had a mole, so of course the kids decided her nickname would now be 'mole.' She must have felt really hurt, as she eventually had the mole removed, leaving a little dent where it used to be. Did everyone then stop calling her names? Nope. They started calling her 'hole' instead."
"this was in elementary: my dad bought a brand new bike for me and i rode it to the park and these older kids came up to me and asked if one of them could take it for a test drive. i said ok and about 10 seconds in, i see the guy riding my bike being pushed off and my bike being stolen right in front of me. the older kids 'helped' me look for my stolen bike but growing up I realized that they plotted this whole thing and yeah i basically gave my brand new bike away."
Nobody got hurt, but it doesn't mean certain actions don't sting.
Future Indication Of Trouble
"Living in the Netherlands. Classmate was showing on his phone a whole online shop he claimed to have with all kinds of drugs and weapons. We thought it was funny because we didn't take it too serious. He dropped out of school early and turned out to be a big drug dealer. Well we could have known I guess."
The Drama Department Wasn't Involved
"A kid faked her own kidnapping. It was all fun and games until the police started chasing her 'kidnappers' van."
"Pantsing somebody in front of everybody. Is that even allowed anymore? That was soooo commonplace as a kid.- Wearing a mirror on your shoes to look up skirts. Even teachers thought it was funny that students occasionally did that."
It's all fun and games until someone gets hurt.
But by the time the pain has been inflicted, it's too late as some emotional scars can take years to heal.
As someone who has been both a bully as well as a victim, I can tell you, I still live with regret and trauma from past actions in grade school.
Just gonna leave this here: Monitor your kids, folks.
Aside from picking up a family member who is finally going home or going to experience the birth of a child, most trips to the hospital aren't usually ones to look forward to.
When you're a patient being admitted, chances are, an accident or a bad decision has led you there.
With medical professionals witnessing a garden variety of cases, there must be some cases that surely stuck out in their minds.
"What is the strangest reason you ended up in a hospital?"
There were things you just don't see coming.
Must've Been Quite The Cough
"I coughed and broke 2 ribs."
"Noticed at some point in my early 20s that fluid leaked out of my belly button."
"Thought it might be a pimple or a small cyst and waited it out, but it was still leaking like two weeks after."
"Went to my GP and he examined it, stuck a q tip in my belly button, smelled it and was like 'in my XY year long career I've maybe seen two or three cases of this in adults... Usually this is diagnosed in infants and it gets fixed then....'"
"What he diagnosed was a 'urachal fistula' a tract between belly button and the... yep, bladder..."
"I had pee dripping out of my belly button... nice."
"He called one of the chief surgeons he knew and is befriended with and got me an exam at the hospital the next day."
"The chief surgeon and multiple residents examed me - they were unsure because this usually doesn't occur in adults. In the end we agreed on surgery, because whatever it is, it needs to be fixed."
"And in the end, it indeed was a urachal fistula..."
"Not a life threatening condition in and of itself, but a risk to nasty infections and a higher risk of cancer long term - also pee dripping out of your belly button, duuhh.."
"Had to have surgery a few years later again, because the fistula reformed (known risk) but since then I haven't had any problems. :)"
"I dropped a ceramic chef’s knife and it bounced off the counter and stabbed me in the stomach. It took longer to convince the medical staff and social worker (I am a disabled veteran) that my SO didn’t stab me, than it took to close the wound."
Things happen, but these could've been preventable.
"I got the tip of a Q-Tip stuck in my ear and my roommate at the time went to pull it out with a pair of tweezers and hit a nerve or messed with my equilibrium or something and I passed out. She freaked out and called 911 and I woke up in the ER. Was absolutely fine until a couple weeks later when I got a $2k bill for an ambulance ride that was literally down the block."
"Lacerated scrotum after getting it stuck in a PEZ dispenser."
Playing Stupid Games
"Was chasing chickens for no apparent reason and caught my shoulder on a piece of sheet metal. 38 stitches."
"Cut my wrist on the cutter thing on a box of Saran Wrap. They had a counselor come and make sure I wasn’t suicidal. 'No. I was wrapping ham.'”
The body works in mysterious ways.
When The Body Fails
"Had a ct scan… 1 hour later the guy called and told me to go the hospital now. Rock up to the ER with a swelling in my neck, pushing on my jugular vein, vomiting, headaches, severe pain in collar bone neck area. After days of blood test and blood cultures I got a diagnosis of some rare as f'k severe illness called 'Lemierre’s syndrome caused by the anaerobic bacterium, fusobacterium necrophorum' and I also had necrotizing fasciitis in my neck from the really bad case of tonsillitis I had 2 weeks prior that spread beyond the infected site. Got straight into the ER, practically no wait in the ER .I ended up with septic shock, Blood pressure was super low. 70/60. never felt a thirst like it. Got 5L of fluids within the first couple hours( mind you I’m only 47kg) I couldn’t pass urine, ended up with a catheter. Stayed in hospital for 5 days and left with a PICC line in my arm. Had 4 weeks of intravenous antibiotics 24 hours a day, had to carry and sleep with a little bag to hold my antibiotics. Had a nurse visit me every day for 4 weeks. Worst part about it is I didn’t even want to go to the hospital and I thought I’d be fine to just sleep it off. If you feel so sick you feel like you’re slowly dying you probably are."
"Saw Mel Gibson's Apocalypto in the theatre. Movie stressed me out soon much i fainted or had a seizure. The date I was with apperently freaked out and she started screaming that Im not breathing. Two solid guys carried me out. Ambulance was called... my date was a doctor lol"
No wonder why medical dramas on TV have no shortage of ideas when it comes to featuring bizarre cases involving patients.
They're most likely inspired by real-life hospital situations.
Kudos to all the medical staff who've seen it all and still manage not to pass out like yours truly, who gets very light-headed at the sight of blood from a pricked finger.
Yes, I had blood drawn from finger when I was a kid and I passed out.
I eventually woke up in a hospital bed with a bandage wrapped around my head after I apparently fell off the chair and landed on my forehead.
That's one way I was kind of admitted to the hospital. Not a strange reason at all. Just a a really embarrassing one.
The dating scene can be really tough, and obviously one of the most difficult elements is going to be the breaking up period.
For this reason, some Redditors shared the advice they would give to someone who had only just begun to date one of their ex partners.
Redditor drifterdodger asked:
"What advice would you give the person dating your ex?"
Last But Certainly Not Least
"Which one? For most, I would just say I hope it works out better for you than it did me, but for one of them, I'd tell you to treat her like a princess because she deserves the best."
Mistakes Were Made
"Treat him well because he will treat you better than you have ever known. Make him laugh because he’ll make you laugh like you’ve never known."
"Let him hold the door open for you, he really wants to. Hold him back when he holds you and don’t let go."
"Don’t make the mistakes I did."
“She’s wonderful, you’re the luckiest man alive. Treat her with all the love and respect she deserves. Make her feel safe, secure, loved, and desired."
"Take it from me, don’t project. Work on yourself if necessary so that you don’t pass that on to her and hurt her in any way. And if you do hurt her, talk to her, communicate, talk about it, and don’t keep it all in."
"Just be kind and loving, put yourself out there, and fight alongside her, not with her."
Fun in the Kitchen
"She’s a great cook, so if you’re a foodie, then inquire about all sorts of exotic stuff you want to try. She’ll probably make it for you."
"Understand that when she says she hopes you have fun hanging out with your friends, she is actually furious that you decided to be with them instead of her, no matter how many consecutive nights you’ve spent together."
"This will then lead to her imagining several ridiculous and unrealistic scenarios of what you are 'actually doing,' which will then likely lead to her having a panic attack, and you will then need to leave whatever you are doing that night to go to her house and try to calm her down."
"So yeah, aside from that minor issue, she’s great."
Rating: Zero Stars
"Flee. Get away, far away. Change your number, name, appearance, possibly gender."
Would Not Recommend
"Check her phone once in a while. She’s cheated on you with pretty much every guy she’s ever met, and with every one of her exes, regularly."
Textbook Ex Material
"As narcissists will, she will make you feel important. Once you are hooked, then she will manipulate you to bend your will. You will never live up to her expectations, so you will be seen as not a priority."
"Lastly, the sex is meh and I always thought she felt dirty by doing it, so that’s why we stopped."
Healing Time May Vary
"She needs to fix herself. She never gave herself time to heal and looks for healing in others instead of working on herself."
"She’s kind and good-hearted, but needs healing."
They're Just Hangry
"You can end arguments with food."
"She loves steak but is scared of steak knives."
"She dislikes pork despite growing up in a region famous for its cuisine. Bacon is okay."
"If she falls asleep during the movie, let her lean onto your shoulder. She likes that."
"She can be quite funny with Facebook messenger text stickers but prepare for a shy and sweet person in real life."
"She loves to share her culture (mainland Chinese) and wants to learn about American culture so be well educated in Western sciences, arts, and history to answer her questions and equally eager to learn about hers."
"Take small steps literally. She was only 5'-0" with shoes and does not like a brisk pace."
"If it doesn't work out in person or things happen to where she had to go back to her homeland, don't expect a long-distance relationship. One day the messages do stop coming and your heart will break."
"If she's angry, buy her some chicken nuggets and milk tea."
"If she's sad, go to her house and make some instant noodles for her."
"If she's happy, well... good job, my friend."
"Make sure she drinks lots of water because she usually forgets to, make sure you play with her hair, and make sure to hold her hand whilst you're driving."
"Make sure to always say good morning to her, make sure that you prioritize her, make sure you give her lots of attention, and make sure you love her more than I did."
"I'm not crying, you are."
Depends on the Ex
"Usually, I'd say run, but since it's the a**hat they cheated on me with (knowingly), I'd say: you deserve each other so go to h**l holding hands; I wouldn't want you to get lost on the way."
"To the other ex's partner: You are privileged to be loved by such an amazing and kind-hearted person, so hold on to and nourish this relationship to the best of your abilities, and hopefully it will make you both happy to the end of your days."
"Take care of him. And if you ever decide to leave him, call me, I'll be there to pick him up."
Usually when people think of talking about exes, the horror stories are usually the first to come to mind.
Fortunately for these Redditors, there were easily as many sweet and nostalgic stories as there were problematic ones.