The Putin-Kim summit produced an unusual — and speedy — flurry of glimpses into North Korea

June 20, 2024  -The imagery from Pyongyang emerged quickly, notable in its variety — glimpses into North Korea in near-real time that showed its leader, Kim Jong Un, grinning and glad-handing with Russian President Vladimir Putin and showing him around the capital of one of the world’s least accessible nations.

For those who follow the happenings of the Kim family’s three-generation rule, the coverage of the Kim-Putin meeting this week — visuals released only by the respective propaganda arms of each government — represented an extraordinary flurry of views into a nation where imagery that feels even remotely off the cuff, not vetted and edited ad nauseam, is rare.

In this photo provided by the North Korean government, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, right, drives a car with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sitting in front passenger seat at a garden of the Kumsusan State Guest House in Pyongyang, North Korea Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: "KCNA" which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

In this photo provided by the North Korean government, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, right, drives a car with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sitting in front passenger seat at a garden of the Kumsusan State Guest House in Pyongyang, North Korea Wednesday, June 19, 2024. I(Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

The pair marched on the red carpet in Kim Il Sung Square, named after the current leader’s grandfather and the nation’s founder. They gazed upon a sea of balloon-toting children. They reviewed a military parade and eyed a crowd waving pompoms. They saw — but were not shown interacting with — groups of North Korean citizens, who if the past is any indication were meticulously vetted before getting anywhere near the scene.

Those images were vivid and plentiful, but they represented the predictable output of an experienced propaganda apparatus.

ar more striking were the in-between moments that managed to peek through — also calibrated carefully, but revealing a smidgen more about the North and its leader than most imagery does. From stills and videos made by both Russian and North Korean state media operations (independent journalists were not given access to cover Putin’s visit), the images were many and varied.

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