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

  • Raphael Dias / Getty for the International Paralympic Committee

    Hopeful Images From 2016

    After another year of news stories that produced photos that can often be difficult or disturbing to view, I thought I’d take the time to compose an essay of uplifting images from the past year.

  • Adam Rhew / Charlotte Magazine / Reuters

    2016: The Year in Photos, September–December

    Time to take a look back at some of the most memorable events and images of 2016. Among the events covered in this essay: the U.S. presidential election; continued wars in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen; a new view of the planet Jupiter; and much more.

  • Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters

    2016: The Year in Photos, May-August

    Time to take a look back at some of the most memorable events and images of 2016. Among the events covered in this essay: the Summer Olympics in Rio, the U.S. Republican and Democratic national conventions, the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, and much more.

  • Stefan Wermuth / Reuters

    2016: The Year in Photos, January-April

    Time to take a look back at some of the most memorable events and images of 2016. Among the events covered in this essay: earthquakes in Ecuador and Taiwan, the passing of entertainers David Bowie and Prince, and much more.

Join the Discussion