North Korea really loves to Photoshop their pictures. It can make everyday life look normal, their missiles look real and Kim Jong Un’s ears look nicer.
“Over the past few years, we noticed that Kim Jong Un’s ears often appear to have been altered along with other aspects of his appearance,” Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey told Motherboard.
The explanation came after James Schmerler, an analyst at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, shared a picture of Kim’s ear in May.
“Sometimes we see editing in pictures of Kim Jong Un – particularly around his ear – wonder if this has anything to do with it?” he tweeted. The possibly untouched image shows a small growth or lesion near Kim’s earlobe.
Lewis tweeted back at Schmerler that he once told his board that the country always “fusses” with Kim’s ears.
Sometimes we see editing in pictures of Kim Jong Un – particularly around his ear – wonder if this has anything to do with it? pic.twitter.com/ggmy1yUOIn
— Dave Schmerler (@DaveSchmerler) May 30, 2017
https://twitter.com/ArmsControlWonk/status/869622829842538496″>May 30, 2017
“For Kim and his ears, what struck us was not any single picture of him, but the totality of them,” Lewis said. “Images of his ears did not always show signs of alteration, but they did often enough that it caught our attention.”
Researchers use a program called “Tungstène” to detect when North Korea has doctored their photos. This forensic software uses a set of filters that essentially creates an ultraviolet map which points out what was probably edited. The program can also highlight if pixels within the photo were duplicated, if colors were manipulated or even if the photo had previously been opened in Photoshop.
But the country’s Photoshop skills are usually so sloppy that you can spot them without the help of specialized software. In one glaring Photoshop fail, you can even see the outline of Kim’s real ear and how it was altered to look smaller and lesion-less.
It’s unclear if Kim’s insecurity over his ear bump is a vanity thing or if it’s a medical issue, such as an infection. Either way, in addition to making their country look like it isn’t one of the world’s most oppressive regimes, the Hermit Kingdom doesn’t like to show their leaders’ weaknesses. Kim Il Sung had a huge growth on his neck that was almost never seen and there’s little photographic evidence that Kim Jong Il suffered a massive stroke.
“We think these are just cosmetic alterations — changes to help Kim look a bit more handsome than he is in real life, much like a wedding photographer might make,” Lewis said. “He doesn’t like his ears, or so it seems.”