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

  • Geoff Robins / AFP / Getty

    Photos of the Week: Snowy Sahara, Dancing Devils, Cryptocurrency J-Pop

    The Singapore Zoo shows off its babies, ice blankets in the U.S., fog drifts in the U.K., Saudi Arabia opens its first automotive showroom solely for women, and much more.

  • Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty

    Photos of California's Deadly Mudslides

    Hillsides scorched by wildfires last month unleashed mudslides under heavy rainfall north of Los Angeles on Tuesday.

  • Bettmann / Getty

    50 Years Ago in Photos: A Look Back at 1968

    A half-century ago, much of the world appeared to be in a state of crisis, with protests around the world, the Vietnam War, and the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert Kennedy. But there was some progress to be found as well.

  • Romeo Ranoco / Reuters

    The 2018 Procession of the Black Nazarene

    Earlier today, hundreds of thousands of Catholic devotees in Manila gathered together and climbed over each other to touch a centuries-old icon of Jesus Christ.

Join the Discussion