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 ←/→.

Most Recent

  • Sergei Karpukhin / Reuters

    Photos of the Week: 4/30-5/6

    A drought in India, a rescue in Nairobi, wildfires in Alberta, the Olympic Torch in a Brazilian pool, a hoverboard record set in France, and much more.

  • Chris Schwarz / Government of Alberta / Reuters

    The Massive Wildfire Burning in Alberta

    All week long, raging wildfires have swept across neighborhoods and forests of the city of Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada.

  • Aly Song / Reuters

    Shanghai's Holdout Neighborhood of Guangfuli

    Reuters photographer Aly Song recently visited a small neighborhood in Shanghai—a remnant patch of smaller houses and shops where residents live in homes surrounded by a concrete wall and looming skyscrapers on all sides.

  • Thierry Bornier / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

    2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

    The Travel Photographer of the Year Contest is now underway at National Geographic, and entries will be accepted until the end of the month, May 27, 2016.

Join the Discussion