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

  • David Swindler / 2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year

    Winners of the 2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year Contest

    Winning images and honorable mentions from the four categories: Wildlife, Landscapes, Aerials, and Underwater.

  • Denis Balibouse / Reuters

    Photos of the Week: 12/2–12/10

    California wildfires, the Sankta Lucia Festival of Light in England, a snowy football game in New York, Glasgow's annual Santa Dash, and much more.

  • Susana Vera / Reuters

    Hopeful Images From 2017

    After another year of news stories that produced photos which can often be difficult or disturbing to view, I’ve made it a tradition to compose an essay of uplifting images from the past year.

  • KCNA / Reuters

    2017 in Photos: Wrapping Up the Year

    Time to take a look back at some of the most memorable events and images of 2017. Among the events covered in this essay, part 3 of 3: California wildfires, Hurricane Maria hits Puerto Rico, a farewell to the Cassini spacecraft, and much more.

Join the Discussion