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

  • Carmen Jaspersen / AFP / Getty

    Photos of the Week: 7/25-7/31

    An alpenhorn performance in Switzerland, a portrait of Vladimir Putin made of spent ammunition from Ukraine, Prince Charles surprised by an eagle, wildfire in California, a sunset in Crimea, and much more.

  • Damir Sagolj / Reuters

    The Abandoned Fishing Village of Houtouwan

    On Shengshan Island, east of Shanghai, China, only a handful of people still live in a village that was once home to more than 2,000 fishermen.

  • Niranjan Shrestha / AP

    Nepal, Three Months After the Earthquakes

    Three months have now passed since massive twin earthquakes struck Nepal, killing more than 8,800 people, injuring more than 22,000.

  • Abhishek N. Chinnappa / Reuters

    The Flying Machines of Flugtag

    Since 1992, Red Bull has been organizing Flugtag (“flying day”) events around the world, where participants build and pilot homemade flying machines off a 28-foot-high flight deck above a body of water. The aerodynamic qualities of many of the creatively built aircraft are questionable, and most do not so much fly as... plummet.

Join the Discussion