Is This Another North Korean Photoshop Goof Up?


The image above, which was published by Pyongyang’s official news agency KCNA, seems to show Kim Jung-un and some of his underlings touring the site of a children’s hospital. However, like so many of the photos released by KCNA in the past, its authenticity is being called into question.

According to Kotaku, Internet commenters have pointed out several issues with the photo that seem to indicate that Kim Jung-un and all the rest were inserted and not actually there. It’s nothing as obvious as China’s floating inspectors you might remember, but there are several strikes against the photo.

For instance, Kotaku points out the odd shadows around the hands, one case of slightly “floaty” feet, and overall fuzziness around the legs. An error level analysis via Photo Forensics also seems to show some rainbowing and other signs of Photoshop manipulation — the consensus seems to be that if it’s not entirely fake, then it has at least been altered.


This wouldn’t be the first time North Korea made the news for doctoring an image, but it has been a while since the county made such headlines. The last time was a military exercise where the North Korean government seems to have exaggerated the number of hovercrafts they had at their disposal.

But the difference between that photo and this is that this one doesn’t seem to be controversial enough to require any Photoshop, leading many to accuse detractors of imagining manipulation where there is none. Others say that a single light point above the camera or even a reflector could lead to “fuzzy” artificial looking edges.

What’s your take on the matter? Is this another North Korean Photoshop goof up or are people picking on North Korea and trying to find Photoshop where there isn’t any? Let us know in the comments down below.

(via BBC via Reddit)

Image credits: Photograph by KCNA

  • dustin dowell

    Really? More logical to add dirt and speckle? I strongly disagree. Why add so much detail in one area but leave out such large chunks? And I disagree about the feet matching the terrain.

    It doesn’t look like an amazing composite to me. It looks like anyone who’s done any studying and any artistic talent could have done. I really want to recreate this photo with and without photoshop and compare.

  • Seb

    If it’s real it sucks cause it looks so fake

    If it’s fake it sucks cause it looks so fake

  • M_Wryter

    Great ” photoshop ” work.looks good…….LOL

  • me

    Just looking at it screams of Photoshop. The shadows, the missing part of Pyongyang’s left shoe, the uniform coloration of each of the mens’ faces, the lack of security guards in the immediate vicinity. They all look like they do not have their feet firmly planted on the ground. They are trying to fool us!

  • Bettina

    Looking at the very distinct shadows on the bodies (hands etc) and the mission shadows cast on the ground here is no doubt that this is fake.

  • Rob Elliott

    nope every shadow that should be there is there exactly as it should be.

  • Super Propaganda

    Where is the direct link? What make you think South Korea doesn’t enjoy making up photos? and the US doesn’t enjoy posting them? and anti-communists don’t enjoy believing.

    Direct link for real please!

  • Super Propaganda

    Sure it is hilarious because there are so many ‘PhotoShop experts’ showing off their eyes or details when they are totally blinded by their local news.

    Like fish in a fish tank look into corals and realize they are synthetic. Wish they could jump out of the tank and understand the whole thing is a fake sea!

  • das22

    It is probably not Photoshop, it does suck, and you might win a bet that they have a state-sponsored version of Gimp running on some archaic processors :-)

  • das22

    They were lifted in by helicopter?

  • JasonP27

    I think the biggest news here is that N. Korea can afford Photoshop

  • jatomusik

    No you’re wrong das! They were decended from heaven…

  • Super Propaganda

    The best news I heard is that N. Korea faked US 100 dollar bill (only FBI can tell with a microscope).

    People who spread the news forgot to Oops!

    OK, may be no one can be fooled by N. Korea. But surely many can be fooled by church of S. Korea!

  • Zaini el-Akhmad

    what is wrong with you people? You so fed with western propaganda that ur mind think’s worse than Communist. I bet you never use speedlights.

  • Super Propaganda

    Communists ain’t as bad as Protestants or Muslims.

  • Zaini el-Akhmad

    nothing is bad in the origin, its just the minds

  • Brett Gilmour

    It’s at least partly fake. Guy in olive is in dappled sunlight but light evenly and in tune with the other guys. Third guy in row has hard golden light on his pants but he’s in a shadow. Fakery.

  • nitro2k01

    “But the difference between that photo and this is that this one doesn’t seem to be controversial enough to require any Photoshop, leading many to accuse detractors of imagining manipulation where there is none.”

    This in in itself is no reason for them not to fake a photo. It’s all propaganda, and they simply have no reason to care. Also note that even though KCNA publishes news globally, the real target is probably domestic news, probably printed in paper news. Ie, that image was probably meant to prove to those living in this area how much the Supreme Leader cares about their home town.

    See also the image of three Chinese officials inspecting a road from 2011. Different country, but what I believe is the same phenomenon, state officials fishing for some local goodwill.

  • Emily Munn

    actually, if you use the angle of the shadow we see from the hand against the jacket, then there should absolutely be shadows on the ground. The sun is too low in this for it to really cancel out the ground shadows, and a flash, unless placed directly over them will always throw a shadow. Just sayin…..

  • Bryan Broyles

    The man on the far right is standing in direct light, but is not lit appropriately for that light. It’s less the shadow and more the evenness of his lighting. Compare him with the others, you’ll see the that the light should be apparent on him, but is missing.

  • Michael

    are you serious?

  • yeah_girl

    I’m a longtime Photoshop retoucher and composite artist, and I can tell you that this is 100% fake. Just a quick look at the lighting quality (color, time of day and direction) illustrates this, not to mention no feet shadows. :-) cute.

  • yeah_girl

    there is a shadow behind the head and under the chin of the guy on the left being cast directly onto the, ah… trees?–as though he were a cutout. Also, the guy next to him is casting a silhouette shadow onto the shoulder of the guy next to him, something that would never happen in this environment. Hard line cutouts… etc… do I need to go on?

  • Hodor

    I didn’t even have to look at this for more than a mere second to tell this is shopped. And it wasn’t the shadows, the people in the photo themselves just look like cardboard cutouts

  • edtsd0

    what could be the reason for photoshopping this photo. if the photos’s about is known, it will erase all doubts.

  • Pootie Tang

    Anyone that thinks they weren’t cut and pasted into the scene is a complete moron. Don’t even try to argue this.

  • tesmith47

    in this case people are picking on N. Korea
    i dont understand why everyone bothers with n. korea, just ignore them, let them go their own way as long as they dont run around invading everyone, like the usa does.

    i notice no one seems to remember the photo manipulation of the saadam hessien statue being pulled down

  • CPLWeeks

    Is Kim Jung-un wearing high heels? The toes seem to suggest so…

  • Photoshop Masking

    Clearly fake but. Sometimes seems real…

  • DiMono

    You don’t have to go to fuzziness or shadows to disprove the authenticity of this photo, all you have to do is look at physics. If they were standing in water, the bottoms of their pant legs would be wet, from the splashes caused by walking through the water. This would be indicated by a darker colour of fabric where the wetness is. None of them have any wet pant legs, thus they were not standing in water when the picture was taken, thus they were put there digitally after the fact.