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Posted at 2:38 PM ET, 12/20/2010

North Korea: Photographs from behind the veil

By Melissa Bell
North Korea
A policewoman in North Korea. (Gary Knight/ VII Photo)

Even as tensions escalate between North Korea and South Korea, life in North Korea remains a mystery to most outsiders. The country has remained all but completely closed off to visitors, and those who do travel there are usually kept under close surveillance by minders. Life magazine compiled images from five photographers who traveled to North Korea and sneaked photographs of the country whenever they could. It's a place where schoolgirls walk with plastic guns, hard labor is the norm and 20,000 people create synchronized tributes to their "Dear Leader." One photographer, Gary Knight, told Life what it was like to photograph the country:

I had a driver and two minders all to myself in a Mercedes traveling at incredible speeds, so that I couldn't see anything, basically. What was most interesting traveling with those guys, though, is they would sleep outside my room at night. I once unscrewed an opaque window in a hotel bathroom, so I could see outside onto the street, look around, and maybe take a couple of pictures. Somebody obviously reported me, because when I returned to the room later, the window had been screwed back on -- from the outside. Nothing was ever said. They were far too polite to chastise me for that.

See the whole gallery here.

By Melissa Bell  | December 20, 2010; 2:38 PM ET
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