News / Asia

Some Asian Media Don't Get Joke About 'Sexy' Kim

In a screenshot from China's People's Daily website, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is reported as having been chosen 'Sexiest Man Alive' by the Onion newspaper.
In a screenshot from China's People's Daily website, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is reported as having been chosen 'Sexiest Man Alive' by the Onion newspaper.

When the satirical U.S. newspaper and website The Onion named North Korea's portly young leader this year's “Sexiest Man Alive,” a lot of readers online around the world had a good laugh. But in China and South Korea the satire appeared to be lost in translation and has been re-published as straight news - a story gleefully reported by international media outlets Wednesday.

The most prominent media organ to have not caught the joke was the online version of The People’s Daily, the official voice of China's Communist Party. It removed the article Wednesday that had the world laughing at it, instead of with it.

The newspaper had posted 55 photos of North Korea's leader to accompany an article noting how Kim Jong Un is “blessed with an air of power that masks an unmistakable cute, cuddly side.”

Accompanying the slides was language explaining that the Pyongyang-bred heartthrob “with his devastatingly handsome, round face, his boyish charm and his strong, sturdy frame” is every woman's dream come true.

But the People's Daily article failed to note that the source of the accolades, The Onion, is a satirical news source.

The article contained other clues this was all in jest, such as noting that the 2011 winner had been Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria.

China is North Korea's sole significant ally and most of the impoverished country's food and fuel is imported from the giant neighbor.
 
Kevin Sites, a journalist and associate professor at Hong Kong University, says teaching classes in Asia has made him aware his humor is not always understood by students who are not native English speakers. And, he notes The Onion's style of writing can sometimes fool casual readers, even in the United States.

“Their satire is so finely honed. It's very sharp. And, in fact, in some cases - maybe not in this one - it's nuanced and not everyone gets the joke around the world,” said Sites.

CNBC Asia’s Bernie Lo in Hong Kong and Cherry Kang in Seoul, in a live exchange about the story on the business news channel Wednesday, had the newscasters unable to maintain straight faces. The normally straitlaced Lo was seen removing his glasses to wipes tears from his eyes after he burst out laughing.

The New York Times, in its blog posting about the satire, helpfully explained that the online version of the People's Daily does not go through the same strict editing process as the print edition.

The Onion, in an update posted about its story, kept in character claiming the People's Daily as its proud Communist subsidiary and praised it for “exemplary reporting, comrades.”

The Korea Times, an English-language newspaper in Seoul, also published the satire online as a serious article. It ran it alongside the Korean version, issued by the semi-official Yonhap news agency. The Yonhap article quoted CNN as its source, noting The Onion, indeed, is a humor news outlet. But the English version did not.

An obviously displeased online staff member of The Korea Times acknowledged Wednesday to VOA News that the Yonhap article was “mistranslated” by the newspaper. However, not seeing any humor in the embarrassment, he declined to give insight into how the newspaper's staff had been duped.

Later Wednesday, the South Korean newspaper also pulled the posting but left readers’ comments intact some of which ridiculed it for not getting the joke.

This is not the first instance in which The Onion's articles have been mistaken for real news in different countries.

The Beijing Evening News, in 2002, reported an Onion story noting the U.S. Congress was threatening to relocate to the state of Tennessee unless Washington agreed to build a new Capitol building with better parking, more bathrooms and a retractable dome.

“I think Chinese news agencies will now be, hopefully, a bit more circumspect before they continue to use them as their news source,” said Sites, a former globetrotting journalist online for Yahoo! News.

Two Bangladeshi newspapers apologized in 2009 for reprinting a spoof from The Onion that the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong, had admitted the U.S. lunar landings were a hoax.

And, two months ago, Iran's semi-official Fars news agency, excerpted an Onion story without attribution about rural white Americans preferring to vote for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over President Barack Obama.
 

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
November 28, 2012 12:46 PM
This young man Kim Jong Un is very pretty if he change N. Korea regime to capitalist, N. Korea'll have more economic than South Korea and supper power country too.

In Response

by: Richard from: South Korea
December 08, 2012 6:21 AM
You have to remember that not ALL countries relate to jokes the same way. Just as English is not the universal language jokes are not translated to the same meaning. I watch Korean TV and their humor does not make me laugh as I do not understand the translation either.

In Response

by: Arie from: Thailand
November 28, 2012 11:28 PM
...and then Ano will improve her English...

In Response

by: BigWaveAlex from: Florida
November 28, 2012 11:22 PM
North Korea is run by China. It will change only if and when China wants the change.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid