North Korea has been in the news a lot, lately. Mostly because we're worried that North Korea will nuke the US soon. (And President Trump isn't doing much to help by stoking the fire.) Since February, North Korea has worked tirelessly to enhance its missile technology. The country, ruled by dictator Kim Jong Un, has tested 23 missiles during 16 tests over the past 10 months, and it has the world on edge. It's actually pretty frightening. We may think of North Korea as a backwards country that is shut off from the world, but their missile technology is advancing quickly. Both US and South Korean experts believe that North Korea will be able to pair their missiles and their nuclear capabilities in 2018.
Aside from us being terrified that North Korea will launch an attack soon, how much do we actually know about the country? Well, we have some great photos to share with you that will give you an idea of what life is really like inside North Korea.
These pictures featuring the poverty in the nation are especially heart-breaking.
"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."
Lafforgue quickly noticed just how paranoid North Koreans were. If there was any chance that a photo of their country could be interpreted in a negative way, they would stop it right away.
"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."
But Lafforgue isn't the only photographer who took forbidden photos of North Korea. Last year on a trip to the country, London-based photographer Michael Huniewicz illegally took some photos that paint a very bleak, unsettling image of daily North Korean life.
Huniewicz stayed at the Yanggakdo Hotel, where most tours put up Western visitors during their time in Pyongyang. The Yanggakdo is situated on an island in the Taedong River, and hotel guests cannot leave the island on their own. The island has been appropriately dubbed the "Alcatraz of Fun."
Once at the hotel, the tour guides confiscated Huniewicz's and his fellow tour members' passports.
Huniewicz recounted the experience: "Our North Korean guide said, `Because you no longer have your passports, you will not be allowed to walk on your own, since if you are wounded in a car accident, hospital staff will not know who you are.'"
At the Yanggakdo, there is no elevator button for the fifth floor. The mystery surrounding this hidden hotel floor has sparked rumors that the fifth floor is dedicated to monitoring "hotel rooms via video and phone taps."
While touring the city, Huniewicz and his fellow tour group members were not allowed to walk anywhere without their tour guides.
The tour bus driver, however, was courteous enough to slow down whenever he felt that "the surroundings were impressive." Likewise, he hit the gas whenever they drove through less impressive areas, just in case one of the passengers was trying to snap an unflattering photo of Pyongyang.
In a split-second rebellious decision, Huniewicz snuck off to snap a photo of this off-limits grocery store, and it's hard to ignore the nearly-empty shelves. Huniewicz noted that an apple cost about five dollars, which may help explain why malnutrition has stunted millions of North Koreans' growth.
Huniewicz quickly realized that there was nothing humorous about the communist country:
"You see, when I thought of going to North Korea, I worried I wouldn't be able to keep a straight face seeing all that absurdity all around," Huniewicz said. "But when you actually are in North Korea, it's just not funny. It's utterly horrible."