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

    Saudi Arabia’s New Female Politicians in the Other Room 

    Many in Saudi Arabia say elected representatives should share unsegregated spaces; according to a recent survey, more than half the Saudi population, both men and women, prefer to work in a segregated place

    Russia Not ‘Apologetic’ for Syria Airstrikes

    With Moscow criticized for targeting armed opponents of President Assad, Russia’s UN envoy says his country ‘acting in a very transparent manner’

    Pakistan Warns of Islamic State's Growing Reach

    Aftab Sultan, General Director General of Intelligence Bureau (IB), briefed Senate Committee in closed hearing, saying that IS-linked groups have been expanding in Pakistan

    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's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.