Glimpses of Humanity in Choreographed North Korea

In a massive spectacle held in Pyongyang over the weekend, North Korea's new leader, Kim Jong Un, addressed an audience of thousands. His appearance was part of a week-long celebration of the birth of the nation's founder Kim Il Sung. Kim Jong Un, who was recently named "supreme commander," promised to continue a military-first policy, despite chronic economic and food shortages. Foreign photojournalists invited for the celebrations have been sending back hundreds of images -- but viewers back home must work to read between the lines. As you view these images, keep in mind that the photographers are strictly limited, only able to capture pre-approved subjects in sanctioned settings. These shapes, colors, and choreographed formations form the image North Korea wants to project. But even photographs like these can give us glimpses of an individual among the masses, inspiring empathy or curiosity. As we look at these members of a long-impoverished, tightly controlled society, we can only study their faces and imagine what they might truly be thinking.

Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.
Jump to Comments

Most Recent

  • Carl Court/Getty Images

    Photos of the Week: 2/21-2/27

    This week we have a fireball above Calgary, wintry weather from Saudi Arabia to New York City, Iranian speedboats destroying a replica of a U.S. aircraft carrier, a Japanese polar bear caretaker robot, Chadian soldiers taking the fight to Boko Haram insurgents, a view of the Moon alongside Venus and Mars, and much more.

  • Dmitry Lovetsky/AP

    A Year of War Completely Destroyed the Donetsk Airport

    In Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine, the Sergey Prokofiev International Airport has been reduced from a modern transportation hub to piles of scorched rubble in less than a year of warfare.

  • Wojciech Kruczynski, Poland, Shortlist, Panoramic, Open, 2015 Sony World Photography Awards

    The 2015 Sony World Photography Awards

    The Sony World Photography Awards, an annual competition hosted by the World Photography Organisation, just announced its shortlist of winners. This year's contest attracted 173,444 entries from 171 countries.

  • Natacha Pisarenko/AP

    Investigating the Mysteries of Antarctica

    Every year, thousands of scientists come to Antarctica for research. For a dozen days in January, in the middle of the chilly Antarctic summer, the Associated Press, including photographer Natacha Pisarenko, followed scientists from different fields on the frozen continent.

Join the Discussion