A photographer captured these dismal photos of life in North Korea on his phone

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The Independent Online

As North Korea continues its sabre-rattling about nuclear strikes, we still know very little about the country.

The North Korean government is notoriously secretive. Upon entering the country, visitors are instructed on what they can and cannot take pictures of. Customs agents inspect your mobile phone and other digital devices, including cameras, tablets, and storage cards, for banned content.

These restrictions prompted Getty photographer Xiaolu Chu to travel by train through the country in August 2015, documenting everyday life through his phone lens. He told Business Insider it was too risky to use a high-end camera because locals would report him to the police.

While some images were deleted during run-ins with the police, Chu shared some snapshots with us. Take a look at life inside North Korea.

Chu took the long way around during his visit to North Korea.

Picture: Xiaolu Chu/Getty


Most Chinese tourists enter by train through Sinuiju or by plane through Pyongyang. He instead travelled to Russia so he could access the northern port at Tumangang.

Picture: Google Maps


He saw scores of people living in abject poverty. Many begged for money.

Picture: Xiaolu Chu/Getty


"There are nearly no fat people in North Korea, everyone looks very thin," Chu said.

Picture: Xiaolu Chu/Getty


When he later returned to the train station, he noticed portraits of the country's former leaders and the words "long live" hanging overhead.

Picture: Xiaolu Chu/Getty


At night, these shrines were the only lit structures in the village. Other buildings sat in darkness.

Picture: Xiaolu Chu/Getty


A customs agent on board checked his tablet to make sure it wasn't GPS - enabled. The government also jams signals as a security measure.

Picture: Xiaolu Chu/Getty


Some scenes were quaint. Children took an afternoon dip in a river.

Picture: Xiaolu Chu/Getty


Korean People's Army soldiers rested on the tracks.

Picture: Xiaolu Chu/Getty


We asked Chu if he was scared of retribution for publishing the photos from his trip.

"No, absolutely not," he said.

Picture: Xiaolu Chu/Getty


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