Kim Jong-un is rumored to have undergone plastic surgery to resemble his grandfather.

North Korea

In one year of rule, Kim Jong-un has shown himself to be a forward-looking Supreme Leader, encouraging North Korea’s first successful satellite launch, applauding Western cultural icon Mickey Mouse on state television, and replacing former national policy “One Meal a Day” with a new one: “No More Belt-Tightening.” Yet the world’s youngest dictator styles himself a reincarnation of his revered grandfather, complete with double-breasted greatcoats, throwback hairstyle, and, allegedly, a few plastic surgery operations to recreate the late patriarch’s facial shape.

A changing North Korea deserves an updated cult of personality. Instead of recalling the past, Kim might consider looking cool in the style of US president Barack Obama, who coaxed one White House janitor into a well-publicized fist bump in 2012. He could go sporty like Cuba’s Fidel Castro, who even as a septuagenarian took up his baseball bat for a photo-op inning against Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez in 1999. To prove his sympathy for popular superstition, Kim could follow the example of UK prime minister David Cameron, who was photographed watching the 2012 Olympic Games on TV at home after being told that his presence in the stands brought bad luck to British athletes. But any attempt to appear a “man of the people” will come with the risk of being treated as one: in 1999, then-UK prime minister Tony Blair homed in on commuter Georgina Leketi-Solomon for a casual chat in the London subway, only for his unsuspecting everywoman to react as most do when approached by a strangely voluble man on public transportation: she ignored him entirely.

Obamamki03Community college, Winston-Salem, NC, USA, 2010.
Sporting Bullet Factory, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2012.


Arc Energy factory, Nashua, NH, USA, 2010.
Navy Unit 155, North Korea, 2012.

Oval Office, Washington DC, USA, 2009.
General Satellite Control, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2012.

Arlington National Cemetery, VA, USA, 2011.
Museum of Korean People’s Army, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2012.

K’NEX factory, Hatfield, PA, USA, 2012.
Department store, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2012.

School, Chatfield, MN, USA, 2011.
Kim Il-sung Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2012.Obamakim14

Cardinal Fasteners Company, Bedford Heights, OH, USA, 2009.
Department store, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2012.

Washington, DC, USA, 2009.
Pyongyang Airport, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2012.

Oval Office, Washington, DC, USA, 2009.
Southwestern island, near Pyongyang, North Korea, 2012.

Schott glass factory, Duryea, PA, USA, 2008.
Army Unit 169, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2012.

Staten Island, NY, USA, 2012.
New Year’s Day inspection, North Korea, 2012.

ShopRite supermarket, East Norriton, PA, USA, 2008.
Mansugyo Meat and Fish Shop, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2012.

Oval Office, Washington, DC, USA, 2012.
Documentary broadcast on North Korean state TV, 2012.

Outer Oval Office, Washington DC, USA, 2011.
General Satellite Control, Cholsan, North Korea, 2012.

National Building Museum, Washington, DC, USA, 2005.
Military unit inspection, North Korea, 2012.

Andrews Air Force Base, MD, USA, 2012.
Army Navy Unit 123, North Korea, 2012.

Camp Victory, Baghdad, Iraq, 2009.
Air Force Unit 354, North Korea, 2012.

Nellis Air Force Base, Las Vegas, NV, USA, 2009.
Taedonggang Tile Factory, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2012.

Observation post, Panmunjom, South Korea, 2012.
Military base, North Korea. 2010.


From the pages of COLORS #86 - Making the News.