Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
April 3, 2013

The U.S./Korea War Pageant




Pyongyang parade

Pyongyang rally



visitors binoculars N. Korea

Seoul War Memorial

“I regard a lot of the political maneuvers on both sides in the Korean conflict as little more than posturing, than a ritual which is necessary for the most conservative forces on both sides to maintain their positions….”

— Norwegian director Morten Traavik via Norwegian Swoons North Korea With a-Ha Diplomacy (VOA News)

Even if the threat from N. Korea is just posturing, Pyongyang’s “declaration of war” in this internet age has set off a full-scale rhetorical engagement and  intense visual confrontation. Those paying attention this past week have witnessed a muscular “best foot forward” by N. Korea, S. Korea and the U.S. deploying imagery in a vigorous and highly symmetrical “shock and awe” dance, a threat pageant, a pictorial throw down characterized to the utmost by materiel, manpower or populist resolve.

The first photo above, one of the most widely-circulated photos of S. Korea’s defensive activity, employs such a feathered synchrony on land, sea and air, you can almost hear the soundtrack from the napalm scene in “Apocalypse Now” playing in your head. Overdependent as we are on the assurance that N. Korea is simply posturing, I find it strange ultimately writing off these hostilities to newswire pattern recognition.

(photo 1: KIM JAE-HWAN/AFP caption: South Korean anti-aircraft armoured vehicles move over a temporary bridge during a river-crossing military drill in Hwacheon near the border with North Korea on April 1, 2013. South Korea’s new president promised a strong military response to any North Korean provocation after Pyongyang announced that the two countries were now in a state of war .photo 2: Shin Young-Keun/Yonhap/Associated Press caption: The United States sent two long-range B-2 Spirit bombers over South Korea on Thursday. photo 3: Reuters caption: Navy vessels of South Korea and the United States attend a joint military drill on the East Sea, east of Seoul in this picture taken March 18, 2013 and released by the South Korean navy March 20, 2013. photo 4: AFP caption: A parade is held in Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang in support of the army. photo 5: Reuters: KCNA caption: North Korean civilians and soldiers attend a rally in Pyongyang on Friday. photo 6: AFP / KCNA via Korean News Service caption: North Korean People’s Army soldiers march at the Kim Il Sung square in Pyongyang for the military parade to mark the 60th anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, 10 October 2005. Kim Jong Il, general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea reviewed the military 7: Reuters caption:North Korean soldiers run as they attend military training in an undisclosed location. photo 8: Lee Jin-man/AP caption: Visitors use binoculars to watch North Korean territory at the unification observation post near the border village of Panmunjom, that has separated the two Koreas since the Korean War, in Paju, north of Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, March 30, 2013. North Korea issued its latest belligerent threat Saturday, saying it has entered “a state of war” with South Korea a day after its young leader threatened the United States because two American B-2 bombers flew a training mission in South Korea.. photo 9: Lee Jin-man/AP caption: Visitors took souvenir photos this month in front of an exhibit depicting South Korean soldiers at the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul.)

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