Wednesday, August 24, 2011

North Korea Discovers Photoshop

The Chosun Ilbo reports that the North Korean media has apparently been photoshopping its images of Kim Jong Il to cover up age spots on his face. They would have gotten away with it, too, except that the Chinese media hasn't been as accommodating in the photos they've published, and some alert Pyongyang watchers have begun to notice the difference.

From left: Kim Jong-il on May 23 (Chinese media), June 2 (NK media), July 12 (Chinese media), and July 29 (NK media)
 In related news, a minor sensation erupted last month when the North was caught trying to pass off this photoshopped image of its flooded streets to the AP.

North Korea's crack team of levitating amputees inspects flood damage in Pyongyang
The AP initially released the photo but became suspicious and killed it a day later, to the glee of NK bloggers everywhere. I just feel sorry for the poor graphics department that was responsible for this fiasco; if past defector accounts remain accurate, it seems likely that the entire team and their supervisors have been relocated to a remote area or sent to the camps.

The AP got a lot of flak from the hawkish crowd for setting up a Pyongyang bureau last month, but I think it will do more good than harm in the long run for those who hope to open up the regime and expose its secrets. The regime may see the AP presence as a propaganda victory and its reporters as easily manipulated tools, but in the long run the extra exposure will be impossible for regime's propagandists to manage. They are accustomed to an isolated, credulous population that has no choice but to accept their goods wholesale; they are not used to the challenge of dealing with a global networked audience, and they will continue shooting themselves in the feet with careless mistakes like these.

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