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

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy 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.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid