March 8, 2014

The Square

Photograph by Jeff Oftedahl, National Geographic Your Shot

“The largest square in North Korea, the giant Kim Il Sung Square in central Pyongyang is an expansive urban space used for massive collective exercises, including mass dances, parades, and demonstrations of loyalty to the leaders of the country whose portraits watch over the space,” says Jeff Oftedahl, a member our Your Shot community.

“Everything is highly structured in North Korea—one can only go where the guides allow. On this particular day we were visiting a monument overlooking the square, which was a sight to behold. Everything is built to be impressive and to position the leadership over the people, and the people walking under the illuminated photographs really emphasized this point. I zoomed in to fill the frame with the square, showing how tiny the people truly are in comparison.”

This photo was submitted to Your Shot. Check out the new and improved website, where you can share photos, take part in assignments, lend your voice to stories, and connect with fellow photographers from around the globe.

47 comments
lola giménez
lola giménez

The first communist kingdom in the world. King father dies, the son is the new king. It seems it doesn´t matter to the world. This country is the hell,as the old democratic republic of germany.

lola giménez
lola giménez

Padre e hijo, bien cebados y barrigones. El pueblo, muerto de hambre.

Sorry, I can´t traduce well.

Father , is dead. The son, is fat. The people is dying because of the hunger.

soe thaung oo
soe thaung oo

Great story telling shot. Pls see one of my response to one of comments below.

Herby Fonda
Herby Fonda

I think a square is a crowded and busy place, nat ther.. oh thanks for the view

Dinakar Manivakam
Dinakar Manivakam

Nice pic ... but ... the Kim Il Sung  Square looks bland ... far too formal without that informal spark of life ...

Sandra Hickman
Sandra Hickman

I like to view a photo for its dynamics, creativity,  etc etc... How the camera is used or operated and the quality of the photos. Its also nice to see the world through our photographers eyes and a learning curve of what other countries have to offer in the beauty of their surroundings. What goes on behind the scenes whether political or mandatory issues each have with one another, is not really the issue here but the photography involved in taking the shot. Sure a bit of info is always welcome when it comes to the " where's and what's of where a photo was taken" . Unfortunately  people are generally "born into a country" - where you never had a say in the matter anyway and so learn to live with what ever situation you are "born into" and make the best or most of it.... lets keep in mind the photo which is the main issue here. Sometimes we need to look on the brighter side of life and just enjoy the "planet earth"  and the beauty of its creation. 

Nat Turner
Nat Turner

Despite this awe inspiring scene here in it's full suit of gray, 

the way we are led to believe North Korea and it's people are, 

the truth of the place is quite different. 

People dressed quite brightly and many eye boggling pieces of original architecture.

Recently Black Washington DC Rappers Pacman and Peso made the country's first rap video and 

if you follow them you soon see the place isn't the dreary hell hole we are Led to believe


Allan Whidden
Allan Whidden

This is a statement of of what (we) idealize and ultimately what we idolize - or at least an attempt to have some do so.

It makes me curious as to what percentage of the North Korean population are duped into buying into this distorted mindset.

Joy Saldanha
Joy Saldanha

The people are tiny comma's, on a HUGE page if writing!  j.e.s. 

Joy Saldanha
Joy Saldanha

The photography is breath taking. The scale of large and small is hard to comprehend,yet it is clearly there to see. I enjoy being a free thinking individual here, with free choices to make as I please. This is not a comparison, just how it is really, in different countries  j.e.s.

Bev Hennager
Bev Hennager

Speaks to me of Egomania.  It could be Hitler on the wall or Stalin.  It sure wouldn't be me unless it was a most wanted poster!  Scary that people can have minds like this.

James Robledo
James Robledo

Leave the politics to CNN, NatGeo. It's big, so are a lot of other places. It's structured, well so is much of the world.


Want to be a real artist, show a picture of violence or actual aggression in North Korea and forget the reality of domestic United States.

cynthia t.
cynthia t.

reminds me of China's Tiananmen Square. Exactly the same thing :( 

MILTON Camuyrano
MILTON Camuyrano


Reminds me how Egyptian Pyramids were built by slave labor, for greatness and idolatry of their tormentors. A beautiful monument to human stupidity.

Yaz Vastradiant
Yaz Vastradiant

only flags and the mightiest picture which are colored.

Michael Barry
Michael Barry

Not criticising you in any way for your decision to visit, but did you give any consideration to fact that your visitor dollars and the visitor dollars of others are ultimately helping the regime? I am undecided on this issue.  

sudheesh n.v
sudheesh n.v

Nice Photo,and this photo brings a different mood in our mind....

Sandra Hickman
Sandra Hickman

Thanks for sharing. Great view from above. More info to store in my memory bank of new and unknown information about other countries.

soe thaung oo
soe thaung oo

I think this lifeless blankness is the essence of this photo,also, great portraits of great leaders hanging over minute people mimic the situation there.

Ap H. Chand Thakuri
Ap H. Chand Thakuri

@Nat Turner  Yeah its only because of west controlled  media (BBC/CNN) we are forced to believe what they wanna us to believe  

Michael Fricke
Michael Fricke

@James Robledo  How did they mention or address any political issues with this? This isn't even a photo by a NatGeo photographer, and the text below the photo is a quote of the photographer.

By highlighting the photo, NatGeo is showing us what on part of North Korea looks like. Not many people are familiar with North Korea's landmarks,  so I believe they were not stepping into the realm of politics, but simply remained in the realm of geography to give us a glimpse into this country.

Nat Turner
Nat Turner

@MILTON Camuyrano  

Why do people keep repeating the error, 

that the pyramids of Kam / Egypt were built with slave labor ?

No where is that written in antiquity, 

the only reference I have found comes from those who have mis-read or did not understand what they they read in the Torah / Bible.

The Children of Israel / Hebrews were, allegedly, 

put to task to "build the STOREHOUSE of Rameses",  

not the pyramids.

Furthermore Rameses came at least a thousand years after the early pyramid age.

No one would dare suggest other similar cyclopean structures which also involve great scientific and engineering skills, such as, the pyramids of Mexico, Guatemala or China used slave labor,

no one would suggest it of Stonehenge in Predain,

so why of the earth's greatest monuments situated as they are in Africa ?

Jeff Oftedahl
Jeff Oftedahl

@Michael Barry The year I visited, 2012, the UN allocated 12.9USD in aid to North Korea. The US has also given food aid to North Korea in the past, much of which ends up in the hands of the government. I'm not sure my tourist dollars make a difference in the success of the regime. Like Jonathan also said, I think tourism can also be a positive exchange between people. Tourists are likely the only foreigners most North Koreans ever meet, and if they can see that we're not monsters like we're portrayed, and also we can learn that they're not either, it can be beneficial.

Jonathan Deitch
Jonathan Deitch

@Michael Barry  The few dollars they make is negligible. It's my opinion that having foreign presence in North Korea enlightens not only the outside world of what's going on inside; but for the insiders to see foreigners and to realize we are not the demons their state-run media portrays. Instead they see that we are good, healthy and prosperous people. Enough to be a catalyst of change.

Nat Turner
Nat Turner

@Menno Bezema @Nat Turner  

I take it then that you have lived there and speak from experience.

Or could it be all your information comes from the Economist which I'm sure you know doesn't support any non capitalist country.

As for gulags which the article centers on do you think they are any worse than being incarcerated in a super max prison some where in America to feed the economically profitable private prison industrial complex ?

Quite often on spurious grounds such as race or being from the poorer classes.

Seek out and read about Monica Macias’s life growing up in North Korea, 

She is an African Woman who as a child, did meet racism, but it didn't take half a millenium for the North Koreans to start treating her as a human and not continue to subject her to the hell Africans of the western hemisphere are still experiencing.

Nat Turner
Nat Turner

@Ap H. Chand Thakuri @Nat Turner  

I know, 

we live in the lands of "Freedom" but we are only free to believe what "They " say is true,

At least these days if the mind is free and not mesmerised we can seek out various sources, make our own evaluations and not be like sheep.

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