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NKorea Caught Doctoring Photo of Kim Jong Il's Funeral -- Can You Spot the Difference?


"There was no reason at all to do it..."

North Korea has been caught doctoring a photo of Wednesday's funeral procession for former leader Kim Jong Il. But can you spot the difference?

(Related: Is This Another Doctored Photo, Or Did a ‘Giant’ Show Up at Kim Jong Il’s Funeral?)

Here's the photo distributed by the Associated Press (taken by the Kyodo News Agency):

And here's the photo, taken from the same vantage point, distributed by the North Korean state news agency:

Here they are side-by-side:

The second photo was taken just seconds after the first (you'll notice the second car is a littler farther along), but many of the people are in he exact same positions. So, did you catch the edit? The New York Times Lens blog explains:

In the Kyodo photograph, which appeared in Wednesday’s Pictures of the Day, six men are standing near a camera behind the assembled crowds. In the North Korean photo, the men — as well as the camera and their tracks in the snow — are gone.

The time between the two photographs can be approximated by the position of the first limousine in the procession, which had moved roughly a car length in the time the two photographs were taken. (A red line was added to the photographs by The Times to highlight the movement.) Video of the procession broadcast on North Korean state television showed the cars traveling at a brisk walking pace when accompanied by the country’s new leader, Kim Jong-un, and other top officials, and more quickly when they are absent.

“Almost nothing changes,” Mr. Farid said in an interview. “Except where the men were standing.”

Mr. Farid, a computer science professor who specializes in digital photo analysis, said the manipulation was a simple matter of cutting out the men and cloning the nearby snow to mask the area where they stood. “It would have taken all of 30 seconds,” he said.

“But they were a little too quick in the cloning,” he added. “Some of the concrete is covered up by snow.”

Mr. Farid and photo editors at The Times focused on an area of concrete where the men are standing that is partially covered in the Japanese news agency photo. In the manipulated photo, the snow covers more of the concrete in precisely the area where the men had been pictured seconds before. Had they simply walked away — already highly unlikely given the time between the images — their tracks should have been visible in the snow, but they also disappear.

So why the manipulation? Is it because the men aren't facing the processional? No one really knows. The Atlantic, however, has some thoughts:

There was no reason at all to do it other than to keep up appearances, but appearances are always vitally important to dictators. In fact, it's the organizing principle of North Korean society — looking like a strong, well-run nation to outside observers supersedes the actual building of a strong, well-run nation. Getting caught in a such silly lie is just another reminder that when dealing with a totalitarian state, the truth is almost never what it seems.

And in other North Korea news, Kim Jong Un, the son of the deceased dictator, was officially named the country's "supreme leader."

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