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

    Who Are US Allies in Fight Against Islamic State?

    There is little but opportunism keeping coalition together analysts warn — SDFs Arab militias are not united even among themselves, frequently squabble and don’t share Kurds' vision for post-Assad Syria

    Video For Many US Veterans, the Vietnam War Continues

    More than 40 years after it ended, war in Vietnam and America’s role in it continue to provoke bitter debate, especially among those who fought in it

    Family's Fight Pays Off With Arlington Cemetery Burial Rights for WASPs

    Policy that allowed the Women Airforce Service Pilots veterans to receive burial rites at Arlington had been revoked in 2015

    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-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora