2016 Photo Contest, Long-Term Projects, 3rd prize

North Korea: Life in the Cult of Kim


David Guttenfelder

The Associated Press

16 February, 2012

Senior members of the military approach an area where Kim Jong-un and other military and political leaders stand, during commemorations of the 70th birthday of the late Kim Jong-il, at Kumsusan Memorial Palace.

North Korea emerged in the upheaval following the end of World War II and the Korean War, and for six decades has been one of the most isolated and secretive nations on earth. Its history is dominated by the founding president, Kim Il-sung, known as the Great Leader. He shaped political affairs for almost half a century, establishing a totalitarian state which shut itself off from the outside world. A leadership cult has grown around the Kim dynasty, passing from Kim Il-sung to his son Kim Jong-il (the Dear Leader) and grandson, the current supreme leader Kim Jong-un.

The country is run along rigidly state-controlled lines. Local media are strictly regulated, and the foreign press largely excluded. The photographer was granted rare access, visiting North Korea on some 40 occasions between 2008 and 2015. He photographed not only large state-orchestrated events, but also everyday rural life.

About the photographer

David Guttenfelder

David Guttenfelder is a photojournalist and National Geographic Explorer focusing on geopolitical conflict, conservation, and culture. Guttenfelder has spent more than 25 year...

Technical information

Shutter Speed
Focal length
70.0 mm
Canon EOS 5D Mark II

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