‘More boring and tiresome than a normal day’

KPA familiesMore years ago than I care to recall, I used to study the art and architecture of ancient Greece. The knowledge has never brought me much joy, to be honest, and certainly no cash, but I am still able to date pretty much any given pot or bit of statuary to within about ten or twenty years.

Looking at this, I realised that I can now do the exact same party trick with photos of Kim Jong Un. God help me.

This may look like a standard photo of the Leader sitting in front of a collection of his subjects, but in its own quiet way it’s revolutionary. The women in the background are the North Korean equivalent of the Military Wives Choir, but the interesting part about the image is that this is clearly not a posed, formal photo. Rather, it’s a snap that the photographer clearly took in between official shots. At a guess, they’re busy readjusting their eye make-up for the close up after all the fake tears of quasi-religious ecstasy that they produced for this shot:ecstasy

In the past, the first picture would never have been published, but of late the official DPRK photographers have been growing a lot more creative, and depictions of KJU are correspondingly more human (and occasionally, for some reason, use a fish-eye lens – you’d think that the last thing they’d want to do is make him look ever bigger, but I suppose any opportunity for creativity is to be seized).

Obviously, we’re still not in Kansas and the informal shot comes in the middle of a pretty standard set of images of North Koreans pretending not to be bored and pissed off at having to waste their time on this rubbish*. Nevertheless, the fact remains that someone with significant party responsibility decided that this particular shot should be made public.

*My favourite quote on the subject of North Korea’s political events comes from Ji-min Kang: ‘This day is a public holiday on which all national agencies including public offices get the day off. But on this day, most residents can’t rest, because there are events to commemorate the founding of the KPA (…) this day is actually more boring and tiresome than a normal day.’


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