News / Asia

Q&A with Michael Malice: The Unauthorized Autobiography of Kim Jong Il

FILE - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, attends an event to mark the second anniversary of the death of his father, former leader Kim Jong Il.
FILE - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, attends an event to mark the second anniversary of the death of his father, former leader Kim Jong Il.
Attempting to understand North Korea for many in the west has been compared to trying to see clearly through frosted glass. The Hermit Kingdom has cracked open slightly in recent years, allowing some visitors the chance to glimpse at a culture made mysterious and hidden, on purpose, by the Kim dynasty.
 
Celebrity ghostwriter Michael Malice went to Pyongyang in 2012 and collected English language North Korean propaganda books from which he has been able to write a humorous yet chilling book titled Dear Reader: The Unauthorized Autobiography of Kim Jong Il. Using the first person to write the book in Kim Jong Il’s own words, Malice brings us a clearer view of the very serious methods behind the madness in this conversation with VOA’s Jim Stevenson.
 
MALICE: So much of our reporting and understanding of North Korea is from a western context. Most of these philosophies are completely foreign in every sense to the American mindset and the western mindset at large. So it makes it very, very hard for the typical person to have any idea of what is going on over there other than the fact that it looks very weird to our senses.
 
STEVENSON: This must have been a lot of fun for you to write and discuss as you were putting it together.
 
MALICE: Oh, it was not fun in the slightest. The backstory to creating this book was nightmarish. I went to Pyongyang, got armfuls of the propaganda. I slogged through all of these communist texts. They are so tedious and mind numbing, it is almost impossible to describe, and repetitive of course. So I had to read through these books to get a view of how North Koreans see themselves, how Kim Jong Il is presented there, and to adapt it in a palatable way in the first person perspective. If you feel that it seems fun, then I have done my job because it certainly wasn’t.
 
STEVENSON: We have heard so many stories of people visiting Pyongyang and being told Kim Jong Il discovered this, and created that.
 
MALICE: Some of those are actually true. For example, there is a very famous story that people in the west make fun of that says Kim Jong Il invented the hamburger. What the actual claim was is that Kim Jong Il introduced the hamburger to North Korea. In fact, when you are an absolute dictator, anything that happens in the country is only going to be by virtue of your privilege, so it is a fact that he introduced the hamburger in North Korea. Anything that happens in North Korea is a function of his giving the green light to it.
 
STEVENSON: I was reading the back cover and one of the bullet points was how he can shrink time, what is that about?
 
MALICE: Oh, this is my favorite story because in the literature they claim that Kim Jong Il can shrink time. It is absolutely true that he can shrink time and this is what they mean by it. He is at a conference and he is listening to the speaker and filling out some forms. People are interrupting him to ask for his opinion on things. At one point the speaker stops and Kim Jong Il says, “What are you stopping [for]?” The speaker says, “Well, you are doing these other things.” Kim Jong Il says, “I can do all these things at once. I can shrink time.” And everyone is shocked. When I told this story to my friend, she goes, “Does he mean multitasking?” Yes, that is exactly what he means. Apparently Kim Jong Il is the only person in North Korea who is capable of doing more than one thing at once.
 
… At the beginning you are laughing at him, at his ridiculousness. And the later it gets once you are on the hook, you realize this isn’t funny at all when you have someone boasting in the same tone about his great math skills and later boasting about public executions and concentration camps. You realize this is happening right now. We laugh at their antics. But part of these antics are the worst human rights abuses for the last hundred years.

Jim Stevenson

For over 35 years, Jim Stevenson has been sharing stories with the world on the radio and internet. From both the field and the studio, Jim enjoys telling about specific events and uncovering the interesting periphery every story possesses. His broadcast career has been balanced between music, news, and sports, always blending the serious with the lighter side.

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More