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

  • Yves Herman / Reuters

    Photos of the Week: Swan Song, Eiffel Climb, Porcelain Starlings

    Tornadoes in Missouri, paratroopers in France, abortion-rights protests in New York City, the Great Wall Marathon in China, a newborn walrus in Germany, and much more

  • Dita Alangkara / AP

    Photos: Deadly Post-election Riots in Indonesia

    Supporters of the presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto took to the streets of Jakarta, clashing violently with riot police, after his loss to incumbent President Joko Widodo was announced on Wednesday.

  • CC BY-SA ESA / Rosetta / NavCam

    The Small Bodies of the Solar System

    Images of asteroids, comets, trans-Neptunian objects, meteors, and more

  • Nhac Nguyen / AFP / Getty

    Buddha Day Celebrations in Photos

    Observations of Vesak, or Buddha Day, from several countries across Asia