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

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Works to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Smithsonian senior research botanist Vicki Funk says ultimate goal is 'trying to get one-half of the diversity of plant life on Earth at the genus level in two years' More

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

Report from member of British think tank says Russian extradition requests keep targets from traveling More

US Lawmakers Weigh Turkish Anti-terror Moves

Turkey’s two-pronged campaign against Islamic State militants, Kurdish PKK forces provokes mixed reactions on Capitol Hill 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.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs