Photo From Kim Jong-il Funeral Was Photoshopped

J. David Goodman and David Furst at The New York Times Lens Blog have uncovered an interesting manipulation of at least one of the photographs released yesterday from the funeral procession of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il:

The funeral of Kim Jong-il on Wednesday called to mind the best stage-managed Communist state productions: the falling snow, the wailing mourners, the perfectly spaced limousines and rows of chest-beating men.

So perhaps it was because the scene was so nearly impeccable that someone — an overzealous North Korean photo editor? — appears to have taken issue with an errant group of men, barely noticeable in a sweeping photograph of the procession in central Pyongyang, and removed them.

According to an analysis by The New York Times and the digital forensics expert Hany Farid of Dartmouth College, a photograph distributed by North Korea’s state news agency and transmitted by the European Pressphoto Agency was altered using Photoshop to remove the men after the picture was shot.

Another photo, taken from the same high vantage over the funeral route only seconds earlier by Kyodo News, a Japanese agency, and distributed by The Associated Press, revealed the changes.

The photograph in question happens to be the one that I used in yesterday’s post about the funeral:

Now here’s the photograph released by the North Korean government:

If you compare the two photos, the difference should be easy to spot, but just in case it isn’t:

In the Kyodo photograph, which appeared in Wednesday’s Pictures of the Day, six men are standing near a camera behind the assembled crowds. In the North Korean photo, the men — as well as the camera and their tracks in the snow — are gone.

It also appears that the government photo has been altered to make it appear that it was a brighter, less dreary, day in Pyongyang than the Japanese photo makes it seem to be. As the analysis also goes on to show, it appears that the government photo also makes it appear that there is more snow on the ground in the area where the six men were standing then there actually was. Why might they do that? Well, here’s one reason:

One of the myths surrounding Kim Jong-il was that he could control the weather and state media has reported unusually cold and wild weather accompanying his death.

Weird, I know. But, this is North Korea. Weird is their business.



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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Beth Donovan says:

    What I noticed right away is that the crowd is much, much larger in the second, official, photo.

  2. Beth Donovan says:

    Or perhaps it’s just the ‘brightening up’ of the photo that makes the crowd more obvious.

  3. But the camera crew isn’t there. That’s an obvious photoshop

  4. Peter says:

    The photos were taken from slightly different locations at different times. The second car has moved 24 feet which is about 20 seconds at funeral pace. What is curious is why the photo from the associated press also photoshopped their image to remove the footprints of the hundreds of people in the crowd (or did they fly in?)

  5. Seerak says:

    The second shot is panned downwards a bit compared to the first, thereby revealing more crowd in the foreground.

    The footprints were (probably) not photoshopped out specifically, they were washed out in the grading they used to “brighten” the scene — notice how the snow at frame right and lower left blends into the solid white of this web page background, compared to the first shot.

  6. Randall Horn says:

    The photos you are showing here are two seperate photgraphs, taken from the same location but apparently seconds apart. Either that or one has been extensively photoshopped for even less reasoning than you identify. Depending on the speed of the procession they may have been taken several seconds apart. Check the postioning of the vehicles in relation to non-moving objects such as the buildings in the background,