Amidst rumors that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il had suffered an incapacitating stroke, in November 2008 the North Korean government released a photo (top), showing the leader apparently in good health, posing with a military unit.
However, many media outlets questioned the authenticity of the image. For instance, the Times
of London noted that whereas the shadows of the legs of the soldiers fall at a sharp angle, the shadow of Kim Jong Il's legs is straight (as can be seen in the close-up, bottom). In addition, a black line visible behind the legs of the soldiers disappears on either side of Kim Jong-Il.
Despite these apparent anomalies, the photo does not appear to have been doctored. Digital-forensics expert Hany Farid examined the photo for Scientific American
and noted that the difference between the angle of the shadows cast by Kim Jong-Il and the soldiers could be accounted for by the curvature of the background surface. The lack of the black line on either side of Kim Jong-Il simply appeared to be a feature of the stadium bleachers. In addition, Farid found no evidence of cloning, color-filtering artifacts, or inconsistent lighting.
Although the photo does not appear to have been doctored, the date of the photo remains undetermined. It is possible the photo is much older than the North Koreans have claimed, taken at a period before Kim Jong-Il's health began to decline.
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