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Unusual Portraits Show Kim Jong Un, Other Leaders Up Close

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Kim Jong Un poses for a portrait at the Workers' Party congress on May 9. Korean News Service via AP

North Korean state media on Wednesday released high-resolution headshots of more than two dozen top officials, including leader Kim Jong Un, that appear to be missing something Pyongyang-watchers have come to expect: signs of retouching.

It's common for photos of Kim released through North Korea state channels to show signs of manipulation, though North Korea officials deny altering images. So it's unusual to receive a pore-level view of the young leader.

Image: Ri Myong Su, a member of the Political Bureau of the C. C., the WPK, is pictured in this KCNA handout photo
Ri Myong Su, a member of the Political Bureau of the C. C., the Workers' Party of Korea. Korean Central News Agency via Reuters

Chang Yong Seok, a North Korea expert at Seoul National University, said the North might be trying to sell a more natural and positive image of Kim and his senior officials following the ruling-party congress that ended Monday. He said the authoritarian country might be trying to create an image as a "normal country" that is not much different from others.

Analyst Cho Han-bum at the Seoul-based Korea Institute for National Unification said North Korea may want to portray Kim as humble yet confident.

Image: Pak Yong Sik, a member of the Political Bureau of the C. C., the WPK, is pictured in this KCNA handout photo
Pak Yong Sik, a member of the Political Bureau of the C. C., the Workers' Party of Korea. Korean Central News Agency via Reuters

The state-run Korean Central News Agency also released photos of 27 other members of North Korea's top leadership — 20 in suits and seven in military uniform. Kim is the only one grinning, and the only one seen without a lapel pin bearing the faces of his grandfather, national founder Kim Il Sung, and father, Kim Jong Il.

One top official was looking much better than some had expected: Ri Yong Gil, who South Korean intelligence officials had said was executed months earlier.

Image:
In this combination of photos distributed on Wednesday, May 11, 2016, by the North Korean government, elected members and candidates of the Politburo of the North Korean Workers' Party pose for a photo at the Workers' Party congress. Korea News Service via AP