Kim Jong-Il’s Shadow

A recently released photograph of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il was supposed to prove that he's alive and well. Instead, it's raising even more suspicions about his health because the photo seems to be doctored. As the Times Online notes:

While the legs of his soldiers cast a shadow at a sharp angle, the shadow of the “Dear Leader” is dead straight. In addition, there is a black line running horizontally behind the soldiers’ legs, but it mysteriously disappears behind Mr Kim.

The lack of the black line behind Kim Jong-Il is what confuses me. Why would it have been deleted? The shadow of the soldier to his left falls across that section of the step, and yet it falls at the angle one would expect. If that section of the step was deleted, the photo forgers must have recreated the shadow of the soldier. But it's strange they would have placed the shadow of the soldier at a correct angle and screwed up the Dear Leader's shadow. So perhaps that's how the step behind him really looks. (Thanks, Hudson!)

Photos Politics

Posted on Fri Nov 07, 2008


I'd guess that these are some sort of bleachers and the area behind him is the aisle up the center. The horizontal line is from the wood planks making up the seats. Maybe. I dunno.

The leg shadow is just wrong, though.

Unless he has the godly power to control his shadow, which may be accepted as truth there. smile
Posted by Tommy  on  Fri Nov 07, 2008  at  05:46 PM
This is hard to evaluate without knowing what and where the light source is (or if there are multiple light sources). The shadows of the men to the left and right of the Dear Leader all look different from each other, too, which seems odd. And if the photo-editors bothered to draw in a fake shadow for Kim Jong Il, why would they draw it in at the wrong angle? I guess they might have been trying to send a secret message to the world, except that in North Korea that sort of cleverness tends to make you disappear forever.
Posted by Big Gary  in  Sun City, Texas  on  Fri Nov 07, 2008  at  06:17 PM
Why do I keep misreading Dear Leader as Dead Leader?
Posted by Sharruma  in  capable of finishing a coherent  on  Fri Nov 07, 2008  at  06:24 PM
I don't suppose the fact that he's the only one with legs apart is significant, since they still look near-perpendicular...
Posted by Robert Seddon  in  Durham, UK  on  Fri Nov 07, 2008  at  06:29 PM
Sharruma sez:
"Why do I keep misreading Dear Leader as Dead Leader?"

You must be confusing him with his father, the (late) Great Leader.
Posted by Big Gary  in  Sun City, Texas  on  Fri Nov 07, 2008  at  06:53 PM
Another oddity that I have noticed is that the two soldiers on each side of Dear Leader are wearing fur caps. Yet the one on the left (looking at the photo) is casting the shadow of a totally different type of hat. So it would seem that there is more wrong with this photo than just the shadow of his legs.
Posted by Little Buffalo  in  USA/Thailand  on  Fri Nov 07, 2008  at  07:14 PM
Good catch LB smile

Maybe Kin Jon Ill is the only one really there and the others are all computer simulations!
Posted by Sharruma  in  capable of finishing a coherent  on  Fri Nov 07, 2008  at  11:08 PM
The answer here is simple. Dear Leader is SO magnificent that he bends light waves.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Sat Nov 08, 2008  at  01:55 AM
Hmm. . .as far as the shadows go, it looks like that might have something to do with what the people are wearing. Everybody who is wearing slacks (such as Kim Jong-Il and the guy second on the right of him) and who has a shadow that can be distinguished has a leg shadow that's more nearly vertical. And has been pointed out, the two people who have near vertical shadows appear to be standing at a bit of a different stance than are the people with the more angled shadows.

The black line is something where we can't really tell anything about it.

"Another oddity that I have noticed is that the two soldiers on each side of Dear Leader are wearing fur caps. Yet the one on the left (looking at the photo) is casting the shadow of a totally different type of hat."

No, that shadow looks about right for that sort of hat. Look at the shadow of the hat on Kim's right for comparison, and keep in mind that these shadows are not being cast onto a flat surface.

So it could be that his image was pasted in, or maybe not. I don't see anything about the technical aspects of it that cries out without doubt "Hoax!".

The main thing that makes me wonder is that this photo actually does nothing to show that Kim is healthy. Look at it: he's just standing there totally without expression or motion. He could be a corpse that has been propped up somehow. Where are the photos of him walking around and greeting his troops? Shaking hands? Moving under his own power?
Posted by Accipiter  on  Sat Nov 08, 2008  at  03:51 AM
Ah yes, simple misdirection!
Forget the closeup and look at the full shot... Notice anything?
The taller soldiers are all on the sides, with the shortest standing near him. (notice how the line of heads curves down in the center of the picture.)

Now look at Kim Jong-Il's torso in the bottom picture... Notice how he looks like he's about three feet in front of the line? But his feet fall in line with the troops on either side of him.

I think, ill or not, that's him standing there, but the picture was carefully posed and and his legs photo shopped so you wouldn't notice how short he is! (Vain little sucker, ain't he?)
Posted by Captain DaFt  on  Sat Nov 08, 2008  at  04:55 AM
Here are some more of what the North Koreans are saying are recent pictures. This one was one of the photos released at the same time as the one that we've been looking at (from <a >this site</a>):

So it seems that Kim wasn't totally comatose for the entire photo session, at least. And here's another of the most recent photos, from the <a >New York Times website</a> (I shrunk it down a little so it would fit here):

There are apparently over a dozen photos released in this latest bunch, but the above two and the one Alex posted are the only ones I'm able to find so far.

And here's a photo released earlier by the North Koreans (from <a >this site</a>):

I couldn't find any information on just when this photo was released, just that it was released "earlier". I got the impression that they were released in October, though. He looks a bit different in that picture than he does in the one Alex posted, so they didn't copy him from this photo. But it shows that the black line thing wasn't all the way across in earlier photos, too, making it more likely that that's just the way the stands are built.

And here's a close-up of that previous picture, from the same website:

Furthermore the BBC, working with a better quality image of the picture we were first looking at, <a >seem to have found some strangeness in the pixels</a>.

It seems as though <a >that is one</a> of his <a >favourite outfits</a>, so they'd have no shortage of photos to copy his image from. And keep in mind that the photos they released are totally undated; instead of editing the photos, they could have simply used pictures taken several years ago.
Posted by Accipiter  on  Sat Nov 08, 2008  at  04:57 AM
Good catch Acci!
Posted by Razela  in  Chicago, IL  on  Sat Nov 08, 2008  at  09:20 PM
The picture that Accipiter found has what looks like dead grass on the ground - the Times picture has what looks like concrete. Clearly there has been some manipulation of the pictures - I doubt that it is limited to merely painting out dead grass.
Posted by Hawkeye  in  UK  on  Mon Nov 10, 2008  at  03:06 AM
different places i guess, on the first picture there is no building, on the second you can see one on the right..
Posted by frank  on  Mon Nov 10, 2008  at  05:08 AM
Yeah, I think that the two different pictures of the stands are of different sets of stands. The grass/pavement, the building, the trees. . .there would need to have been some major changes done between photos. Of course, since the North Koreans never actually give any details on when or where the pictures are taken, it is just possible that they are the same spot, but it's been long enough between photos that the building and trees have been torn down and the ground paved. Who knows, other than a few of the North Koreans?

But the main thing is that the stands seem to be built the same way, and that indentation or whatever along the front seems to be missing in the middle in both pictures. So it seems most likely that the stands are built that way.

That still leaves the problem of the pixels that the BBC pointed out, though.
Posted by Accipiter  on  Mon Nov 10, 2008  at  12:57 PM
Hm. Acci has demonstrated that the line is a non-issue and put forward a good case for the shadow being normal - and the pixellation alone seems pretty weak evidence. I'm not sold on this.
Posted by outeast  on  Tue Nov 11, 2008  at  01:56 AM
(Undated photo.)
Black line is there.
Same outfit, different shoes.
Mismatched pixels on top of shoes.(like latest 'photo')
Different soldiers with him.

Posted by Eric Schucard  in  Carlsbad, CA  on  Tue Nov 11, 2008  at  01:53 PM
Eric Schucard, that url link and image link don't seem to be working. Could it be this picture that you're talking about?

(that I found courtesy of <a >Spiegel Online</a>)

The problem with that picture is that it only shows a very small field of view. For all we know, he could be standing to the left or right of centre on one of those reviewing stands, which wouldn't put him standing in front of the spot where the black line seems to disappear from. We can't even tell if it's one of the same reviewing stands as in the earlier pictures; it could be a third reviewing stand, that is just built differently. And we just have too many other pictures showing reviewing stands lacking that line continuing through the middle, such as yet another one here:

(from <a >this site</a>)

Thus far all evidence shows that the middle of the bottom row on those sorts of reviewing stands simply lacks the continuation of that line. No evidence clearly shows otherwise. As it is, for that line's absence to be a sign of photo editing we'd have to accept that:

(1) All those other photos I found, and probably a good many others, were also edited similarly.

(2) The people doing the photo editing keep on making the same obvious mistake and not fixing it, which would not be a healthy thing for the photo editors in a place such as North Korea.

(3) In spite of the sloppy errors, the North Korea propaganda people released the photos to the world.

It all just seems highly unlikely compared to the alternative: the stands are just built without a continuous line across the bottom front.

So while it's quite possible that the pictures are faked, none of the stuff about that line shows anything one way or the other about it. And the shadows of the legs is just too inconclusive. We need more evidence to show whether or not the Dear Leader is being added to the photos, and I don't really see us getting that evidence from the small little low-quality copies of the image that I've seen available. We either need somebody else to analyse a better copy for us and find something, or else to figure out some contextual error in the photo (such as noticing that the photo was taken on Oct. 16th, and that Kim Jung-Il was obviously elsewhere that day).
Posted by Accipiter  on  Tue Nov 11, 2008  at  08:43 PM
What I do consider to be a very likely possibility is that the photo is a fake in a whole different way. It really is a photo of him standing there with those soldiers. . .but the photo is a lot older than the North Koreans are implying. So it doesn't actually show us anything about their leader's current health. They just pulled out some stock photos that they kept locked away for just such use, to make the rest of the world think that Kim Jung-Il was all perky and healthy.
Posted by Accipiter  on  Tue Nov 11, 2008  at  08:44 PM
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