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

    US, Somalia Launch New Chapter in Relations

    US sends first ambassador to Somalia in 25 years; diplomatic presence and forces pulled out in 1993, after 18 US soldiers were killed when militiamen shot down military helicopter

    Brexit Vote Ripples Across South Asia

    Experts say exit is likely to have far-reaching economic, political and social implications for a region with deep historic ties to Britain

    Russian Military Tests Readiness With Snap Inspections

    Some observers see surprise drill as tit-for-tat response to NATO’s recent multinational military exercises in Baltic region

    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.
    Testing Bamboo as Building Materiali
    X
    June 27, 2016 9:06 PM
    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapides’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora