Here's What North Korean Propaganda Actually Shows

One staged photo can reveal a lot about realities in North Korea
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 25, 2017 1:00 PM CST
How Experts Decode North Korean Propaganda
The New York Times enlisted experts to decode this North Korean propaganda photo and explain what it can tell the West about Kim Jong-un and his nuclear program.   (North Korean Central News Agency)

North Korea's propaganda photos aren't just good, well, propaganda; they can also help the West understand what's going on with the country's nuclear program and within Kim Jong-un's regime. In a fascinating piece, the New York Times uses one such photo—Kim debuting what is said to be a new nuclear device—and asks the experts to glean what they can from it. From just what is glimpsed in the photo, experts are able to deduce that the nuclear warhead, if functional, is about the size of the bombs dropped on Japan by the US. Experts are also able to extrapolate what kind of fuel the missile in the background uses and how far it could travel, if it works.

The photo also shows Kim is—unlike his father—positioning himself as the only authority in North Korea with the military far below him. He wears a jacket similar to one worn by his grandfather, who also made himself the country's central authority. Even though there are important military officials in the photo with Kim, they are wearing civilian clothes and all are taking notes on what Kim is saying, showing deference to his authority. The experts say there is enough evidence in the propaganda photo to show that North Korea's nuclear program is "deadly serious" and not to be mocked any longer. They also note that it hasn't been retouched, unlike similar photos in the past, which may mean North Korea wants to make sure the West takes it seriously. Read the full story here. (Read more North Korea stories.)

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