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 VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Kurdish service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs