North Korea doctored photographs of Kim Jong Un, official says

The photographs were likely taken the day the United States flew F-22 stealth fighters across South Korean airspace.
By Elizabeth Shim   |   Feb. 19, 2016 at 2:24 PM
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SEOUL, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- Recent photographs of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appeared to have been doctored, prompting speculation regarding Kim's wariness about his personal safety as tensions rise on the peninsula.

The photographs that ran on the seventh page of state newspaper Rodong Sinmun on Friday show Kim surrounded by a large group of party officials, posing before the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, South Korean newspaper JoongAng Ilbo reported.

Kumsusan is also the mausoleum of the late Kim Il Sung, North Korea's founder.

But something doesn't look quite right.

On closer inspection, the main flag at the top of the building flutters in one direction, while a group of flags in the background flies in the opposite way, an unlikely phenomenon if wind was blowing at the time the photograph was taken.

The newspaper also ran multiple photographs of the scene, each time showing a different set of officials posing with Kim. But in each photograph, the flags appear to be identical, leading one unidentified South Korean official to say the images were falsified.

The photograph was likely taken the day prior, on Feb. 17, when the United States flew F-22 stealth fighters across South Korean airspace. Experts have said aircraft that cannot be detected by radar are the weapons Kim "fears the most," and the photographs could have been doctored in order to hide Kim's exact whereabouts, the Seoul official said.

But other aspects of the images look real, the official said, adding it's unlikely that North Korea also doctored the images of personnel at the scene.

North Korea has previously been suspected of doctoring other images of events where Kim was in attendance, including a 2013 visit to a training exercise of Pyongyang's hovercraft. North Korea also allegedly falsified images of Masikryong Ski Resort in 2014 – a lavish park reserved for the nation's elite.

Kim and Pyongyang's favored class live at the height of luxury, by North Korean standards, and their appetite for imported items continues to grow.

South Korean television network KBS reported Kim has imported 50 percent more luxury items than his father, the late Kim Jong Il, since he assumed power. Those goods are worth $2.09 billion, according to Seoul intelligence.

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