It wasn’t photographer Steve Gong’s first trip to North Korea. But on this trip, putting his life at risk, he practiced for months to capture secret video footage in the notoriously clandestine country. And he pulled it off.
To even enter the country, visitors must be given special permission and go through a monitored, government-arranged tour group. A few years ago, a South Korean tourist was reportedly shot for wandering off to watch the sunrise without her group.
(More on TIME.com: See rare pictures inside North Korea.)
Using a Canon 5D, Gong taped out the backside of the camera, and for weeks, practiced shooting video with the camera around his neck. What’s captured is a precious glimpse into North Korean daily life, something very little known about in the outside world.
And when he was leaving the country, perhaps, with luck on his side, “…the [funny] thing is, the military officer who was supposed to go through every single picture on my camera [never] show[ed] up,” he wrote on his blog.
(More on TIME.com: Read about Kim Jong Il’s weakening grip.)