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

  • Gabriel Bouys / AFP / Getty

    Photos of the Week: Plastic Lake, Van Cat, Burning Judas

    Ballet in an empty Syrian market, a forest fire in California, a briefing by the Easter Bunny in the White House, riots in Northern Ireland, a giant sand dune in France, and much more

  • Spencer Grant / Getty

    Boston in the 1970s

    A collection of some of the sights and events taking place in and around Boston from 1970 to 1979

  • Al Drago / Getty

    April Blooms: Spring Is on the Way

    Images from the past few weeks of tulips, sunshine, and cherry blossoms—surely signs of warmer days to come

  • Mladen Antonov / AFP / Getty

    Photos of the Week: Worm Moon, Cat Lodge, Red Hearts

    A theme park’s reopening in California, Holi celebrations in India, whale watching in Mexico, a masked rock concert in Barcelona, a snowy Opening Day in Detroit, and much more