News / Asia

North Korea Insists Leader is Nothing to Joke About

FILE - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un applauds during a photo session with soldier-builders of KPA Units 966, 462, 101, 489.
FILE - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un applauds during a photo session with soldier-builders of KPA Units 966, 462, 101, 489.

Related Articles

North Korea Complains to White House About US Movie

Movie, titled 'The Interview,' centers on two journalists tasked by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

North, South Korea Hold Rare Talks Ahead of Asian Games

Pyongyang plans to send 150 athletes and a squad of cheerleaders to the games

US, UK Concerned N. Korea Launches Endanger International Aviation

State Department spokeswoman confirms US joined other nations in co-signing a letter last week to International Civil Aviation Organization

In the United States, mocking political leaders is national pastime that most Americans enjoy. Even the targets of ridicule usually laugh along or ignore it.

In North Korea, poking fun at the Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un, appears to be viewed as an existential threat.

For example, in April, North Korean officials dropped by a London barber shop, which mocked Kim Jong Un’s hairstyle in a promotional poster. The poster showed Kim famous coiffure and read “bad hair day?”

Earlier this month, North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ja Song Nam, filed a formal complaint urging the body to force the U.S. block the release of an upcoming movie, “The Interview.”

The comedy, which stars Seth Rogen and James Franco in a plot to assassinate Kim, mocks North Korea’s ruler.

The complaint read that “to allow the production and distribution of such a film on the assassination of an incumbent Head of a sovereign State should be regarded as the most undisguised sponsoring of terrorism as well as an act of war."

Now this week, North Korea asked China to stop the spread of a viral video that lampoons Kim. According to the Chosun Ilbo newspaper, the North says the video, which shows Kim in a variety of silly situations, including being knocked out by President Barack Obama, "seriously compromises Kim's dignity and authority."

While North Korea’s response to the mockery of Kim may seem extreme to many, it is not surprising to North Korea watchers.

“It is a political culture that cannot deal with ‘dissing’ their leaders or their country,” said Katharine H.S. Moon, the SK-Korea Foundation Chair in Korea Studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. “Even though we can find humor in it as a clever, entertaining spoof – and have no problem laughing at and with our own political leaders – North Koreans regard the Kims as deities. And so, to them, it is sacrilegious.”

Moon said North Korea may feel compelled to react to these incidents to save face.

“Staying quiet would be an act of cowardice and defeat – that ‘violating’ the sacredness of the Kim family and the leadership of the North Korean people is OK,” she said. “That is not an option for them.”

Moon said she didn’t put much stock in North Korea’s contention that “The Interview” could incite assassination attempts.

“He is so tightly guarded,” she said.  “But the more practical concern is the debasement of Kim's standing and legitimacy.  His youth, lack of experience, lack of secure contacts and friendships with foreign leaders put him in a precarious position. He has to earn the respect and trust of the older military and Korean Worker’s Party leaders.”

The Chinese video presented a new wrinkle as it comes from an erstwhile friendly nation.

According to Moon, “Kim and his small leadership cohort know that China looks down on him and the country, and is tired of dealing with the recalcitrant behavior,” while at the same time, North Korea “does not see itself as a client of China – so, even if it benefits economically and politically from China's power, it has never acted with subservience or servility toward Beijing.”

“The Chinese have let anti-Kim and anti-North Korea expressions run free in China's cyberworld and to a lesser degree in print news,” she said. “North Korea has recently lambasted China publicly, partly for the unofficial oil embargo and partly for dissing it by cozying it up with South Korean president Park Geun-hye.”

She added that North Korea also recently cracked down on the use of China’s currency, the Yuan, in North Korea.

“There's mutual distrust and frustration, if not hostility, between China and North Korea,” she said.

Another reason for the North’s lashing out could be simple insecurity from Kim.

“Kim Jong Il got plenty of buffoonery thrown at him – the hair, the shoes, the movies, the women, the weight,” said Moon.  “But he was the immediate heir to the "Great Leader," and he had decades to build up experience and political support.

“Kim [Jong Un] shows no sense of humor, no ease,” she said.

Here's the Chinese video:

You May Like

Islamic State Survivor: A Yazidi Girl's Tale

Sarah Said Haydar, captured a year ago while fleeing Islamic State onslaught in northern Iraq, was so traumatized by militants, she sought to end her own life More

EU, US Applaud Kosovo Law on Special Court

Joint statement says lawmakers' decision to address allegations of war crimes 'demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law and to honor international agreements' More

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: tim from: canada
August 07, 2014 1:49 AM
Best video ever!!!!!!

by: jankys from: usa has issues
July 25, 2014 7:11 AM
XD meaning usa is nothing but a joke xD they dont even know to fix anything but use people. As everyone was really laughing at them the whole time

by: ms.oh@mail.com from: US of A
July 24, 2014 2:29 PM
I'd disagree. The boy has made himself nothing but the tail end of humor. We had hopes, but oh well. The boy fell into the same trash bin Dad and Gramps created.

by: TomFoolery from: US
July 23, 2014 3:57 PM
"Ronery, I'm so ronery..." I know it was supposed to be his father in that movie, but, the whining continues.
In Response

by: Hbs4470 from: Stony Brook
July 24, 2014 9:21 AM
Hey what happened to their writing pads? Isn't it peculiar that in most of their pictures that his staff always has to take notes. MI wonder if they have low self esteem that they they that they will forget what their supreme leader told them what to do.
In Response

by: stephen from: Michigan
July 24, 2014 4:13 AM
This is so funny. Kim should have a since of humor. He humors his people by starving them to death. I make no bones about his leadership, he's a card. All his threats about seas of flames and other threats need to be put on the back burner. I have seen more Koreans in America this week, that Kim has his hit men over here to do something. I know the language and when they spoke in their native tongue, I was going to intervene but I didn't. Start feeding your people and maybe you won't be poked at. Just too funny!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Tradei
X
Robert Carmichael
August 04, 2015 3:07 PM
Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Trade

Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Growing Number of E. Jerusalem Palestinians Seek Israeli Citizenship

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have long rejected the option of full Israeli citizenship, seeing it as a betrayal to their political cause - the formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as that dream remains elusive, more and more Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship. Zlatica Hoke reports the decision is hard for many Palestinians who say they have to be pragmatic about it.
Video

Video With No Money, More Students, African Universities Struggle

Academics from around the African continent converged in Johannesburg last week for the African Universities Summit, a chance to tackle some of the major issues facing higher education in Africa today. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Still Mired In Controversy

Voter ID laws have sparked controversy across the US. More than 30 states enacted laws requiring citizens to show identification before they vote. Against fierce opposition, the state of Wisconsin recently enacted one the most restrictive voter ID laws in country. As Jeff Swicord reports, no one can predict its impact as the 2016 election nears.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Hailed as Highly Effective

At last, there's a way to end the suffering from the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa for more than a year. Researchers say the vaccine is so effective, there may never be a major outbreak of Ebola again. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs