Archive for Unintended Humor

In latest N. Korean turmoil, Chaz Bono promoted to Supreme Leader

Forget what I said this week — North Korea is still funny. Look what a reader spotted on this apparently official North Korean propaganda video, posted on YouTube at a channel that has always posted authentic North Korean material in the past.

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If this is a fake, well, they fooled me. Note the logo on the upper lift-hand corner, which appears in some other apparently legit videos posted at the same channel.

The video was a compilation of stills and video from around the world intended to show how much we all love/fear/respect Kim Jong Un. Whatever the impact domestically, I’m afraid the impact internationally will be very much the opposite.

If anyone knows how to preserve or download a YouTube video, please do, before “StimmeKoreas” (it means “Voice of Korea” in Dutch, and probably a few other Northern European languages) catches on and pulls this down.

So … does this mean KCNA believes in unicorns?

America’s finest news source, The Onion, is presented as parody but can be mistaken for reality. North Korea’s finest news source, KCNA, is presented as reality but can be mistaken for parody. But if you compare the best work of each news source, KCNA is clearly funnier:

Pyongyang, November 29 (KCNA) — Archaeologists of the History Institute of the DPRK Academy of Social Sciences have recently reconfirmed a lair of the unicorn rode by King Tongmyong, founder of the Koguryo Kingdom (B.C. 277-A.D. 668).

The lair is located 200 meters from the Yongmyong Temple in Moran Hill in Pyongyang City. A rectangular rock carved with words “Unicorn Lair” stands in front of the lair. The carved words are believed to date back to the period of Koryo Kingdom (918-1392).

Jo Hui Sung, director of the Institute, told KCNA:

“Korea’s history books deal with the unicorn, considered to be ridden by King Tongmyong, and its lair.

The Sogyong (Pyongyang) chapter of the old book ‘Koryo History’ (geographical book), said: Ulmil Pavilion is on the top of Mt. Kumsu, with Yongmyong Temple, one of Pyongyang’s eight scenic spots, beneath it. The temple served as a relief palace for King Tongmyong, in which there is the lair of his unicorn.

The old book ‘Sinjungdonggukyojisungnam’ (Revised Handbook of Korean Geography) complied in the 16th century wrote that there is a lair west of Pubyok Pavilion in Mt. Kumsu.

The discovery of the unicorn lair, associated with legend about King Tongmyong, proves that Pyongyang was a capital city of Ancient Korea as well as Koguryo Kingdom.”  [KCNA, Nov. 29, 2012]

Unlike the Editor of The Peoples’ Daily, I’ve paused to ask myself, “Can they really be serious?” A S.T.A.L.I.N. search of KCNA’s archives reveals previous references to unicorns, but in those cases, KCNA characterized them as “mythical,” and this report does use the word “legend.”

Perhaps North Korea is throwing a lifeline to its embarrassed Chinese sponsors by planting this cunning and cryptic parody in the U.S. press, although if there’s any place you’d expect to see parody in North Korea, this isn’t it. (The North Koreans are deadly serious about establishing Pyongyang as the historical capital of a unified Korea.) Or perhaps KCNA is offering us scientific evidence that King Tongmyong deceived his people with myths and legends about himself … to bolster the credibility of its own historical claims. Or perhaps they’re telling people to believe in freaking unicorns!

I know I’ve been a little hard on KCNA for its faked photographs, its calls to slit the throat of the President of South Korea, and its attribution of supernatural powers to Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un, but not even I can deny that KCNA reports like this one provide us unique and exclusive access to a world no one else is showing us.  As Jean H. Lee recently put it:

Even though the images and words that the AP produces from Pyongyang are clearly shaped and influenced by the regime, Lee defended her bureau’s presence against accusations from media critics that it is serving the interests of a brutal regime rather than investigating the truth about starvation and a vast gulag system. “Some critics don’t want us there,” she said. “But isn’t it better that we are there? We try to get on the ground to see what’s happening. We have to flesh out the narrative.”

Who, me? I want the crack AP-KCNA Truth Squad right where it can tell us what a keun of unicorn flesh sells for in Chongjin today! Far better that we know just the officially-shaped part of the story of North Korea’s unique biodiversity than none at all! Surely there’s a fragile ecosystem here that requires protection through a generous U.N. grant.  So far, however, the AP hasn’t put this exclusive KCNA report on the wires.  I hope they dare to believe in their sweet dreams, because nothing cloaks a news agency in an air of global respectability like shouting “Look! Unicorn!” to the whole world.

Speaking of which, who else has noticed how quiet the AP’s Pyongyang Journal has been recently?  The last report hosted there is this (seriously, no-kidding) excellent October 7th report from Tim Sullivan.  Sullivan has published at least one other report since then, about the supposed popularity of “Gone With The Wind” in Pyongyang.

Hat tip to (no, not The Onion) Chico Harlan’s Twitter feed.

ChiComs Behaving Stoopidly: Peoples’ Daily Falls for The Onion’s Award to Kim Jong Un of “Sexiest Man Alive”

As funny as I thought the original parody was at the time, it’s infinitely funnier when humorless authoritarian propagandists don’t realize it’s a parody and put it on Page One.  And while the Onion guys aren’t exactly ruthless in the we-send-children-to-the-gulags-on-Mondays-and-Thursdays sense, they didn’t show the Peoples’ Daily much mercy with this hat tip:

UPDATE: For more coverage on The Onion’s Sexiest Man Alive 2012, Kim Jong-Un, please visit our friends at the People’s Daily in China, a proud Communist subsidiary of The Onion, Inc. Exemplary reportage, comrades.

For demonstrative reference, here’s the Sexy Man himself hitting the gym with a cancer stick clutched in one claw and the pitiful Ri Sol Ju in the other, looking like the victim of the tentacle monster in that Japanese anime flick you won’t admit watching:

I’d sell my body behind a bus station for video of that self-criticism session.  See also Isaac Stone Fish in Foreign Policy and our good friends at the Associated Press.

And in other news that no doubt has the Fifty Cent Party working overtime, a sex tape of a Chinese official bedding an 18 year-old woman has gone viral.  The tape was made five years ago, most likely by the would-be government contractors who hired the woman to “entertain” the official, to ensure that once bought, he’d stay bought.  It’s telling that such precautions are necessary.  Really, if you can’t trust a corrupt, adulterous pervert overlord of an unaccountable oligarchy, who can you trust?

Frankly, I’m beginning to question all that Thomas Friedman-style “realist” masochism about the superiority of Chinese statecraft, its harmonious public order, and its sophisticated use of non-interventionist Soft Power.  Could it be that they’re really just a bunch of bumbling, mirthless goons with nuclear weapons?

Most Unfortunate North Korean Photo Op Ever: The Kim Jong Un Workout Video!

Holy mother of Zeus. No matter how many times I watch this, I can’t believe they actually filmed it. On purpose.

It’s wrong to laugh, but sometimes I can’t help myself.

Hat tip: Chico Harlan.

From the Gallery of Unfortunate North Korean Photo Ops: Jabba at the Gym

Good news: Margaret Chan may have missed the evidence, but at least one North Korean has an obesity problem. Bad news: He just appointed himself National Personal Trainer.

That may be the worst photo op since this one. Or this one.

North Korea’s KCNA state media said Kim was accompanied by his new wife, Ri Sol-ju, and that the exercise centre had been “built according to the direct initiative and plan” of the Young General, as he is known. It added that Kim is “always deeply concerned for the promotion of people’s health and living standards.”

So concerned that he blew enough rice money to feed a small town for a year on a new gym that no one in North Korea but him needs, in the middle of its 18th annual food crisis since his grandpa became North Korea’s largest stockpile of preserved meat.

Kim told the staff that if office workers who work indoors all day, “take exercise and receive medical treatment at the centre, they can devote themselves to revolutionary work in good health.” - The Telegraph, Julian Riall

Can you imagine what it must have been like to be one of the gym staff members, being lectured on fitness and exercise by a morbidly obese man … who showed up in a Mao suit? Suppress your amusement, comrade. Think of your children.

And of course you’re right. This really isn’t funny at all.

Forgive me. If I didn’t laugh, I’d be too depressed to write this and you’d be too depressed to read it. I wonder how many people living outside Pyongyang will ever see that picture.

North Korea Awards Highest Civilian Honor to Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

You know how hard I’ve worked for the coveted Human Scum Award for the last seven years, and I’ve yet to receive so much as a nomination:

Ros-Lehtinen, member of the U.S. House of Representatives, called for taking “strong counteraction” and relisting the DPRK as a “sponsor of terrorism,” while terming it a “rogue regime”. This is intolerable as it is malignant vituperation against the dignified DPRK and its system. Ros, man representing the U.S. conservative hard-liners, is human scum as he earned ill-fame as an anti-communist fanatic. He is a political illiterate ignorant of the background against which the nuclear issue cropped up on the Korean Peninsula and the processes to settle it. It is natural to hear such rubbish from him. What should not go unnoticed, however, is that he let loose vituperation against the DPRK soon after he became chairman of the House International Relations Committee. It is quite clear that he would escalate the anti-DPRK campaign in Congress and political arena. [KCNA]

More here, from the Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon.

My sincere congratulations to the brigandish gentle lady from Florida. After you have a giggle at the fact that North Korea’s official news service doesn’t even know (or can’t correctly translate) the gender of one of Congress’s soon-to-be most powerful members, consider the depth of North Korea’s willful ignorance about Earth, and what this suggests about its risk-assessment skills. Occam’s Razor tells us that there’s no need to resort to complex explanations when simple ones will do. Yes, there may be some merit to the speculation about the cognitive effects of Kim Jong Il’s stroke, but consider the possibility that the North Koreans have been behaving like ignorant, bloody-minded assholes because that’s just what they are.

This isn’t to say that they’re crazy or irrational. I don’t believe they’re either of those things. I actually think the Kim family is a collection of malignant narcissists-slash-sociopaths. But reason isn’t just about the presence of viruses, it’s also a function of the input data and the processor speed. One can be subjectively rational and objectively irrational. And if you believe, as I do, that extortion was one of the reasons for North Korea’s recent attacks on the South, it has misjudged. The same KCNA piece reports that “Senator John McCain said that he would make new Congress commencing its work next year immediately relist the DPRK as a ‘state sponsor of terrorism’ and apply financial and other sanctions against it.” I wouldn’t normally afford KCNA a strong presumption of accuracy, but I have it on good first-hand authority that Ros-Lehtinen will place the same objectives high on her list of priorities. And if Lee Myung Bak does what I think he’ll soon have to do and closes Kaesong, the effect will have been exactly the opposite of North Korea’s likely objectives.

Also from Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, we learn who the new Republican subcommittee chairs will be:

(WASHINGTON) ““ U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), the incoming Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, today announced the Vice Chairman and the Subcommittee Chairmen for the Committee in the 112th Congress. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:


“The oversight and investigations component of this Committee will be robust, and I will be establishing mechanisms for Americans to blow the whistle on waste, fraud, and abuse in State Department and Foreign Aid operations by welcoming anonymous tips. I will also be establishing a mechanism for the American people to be directly involved in Committee hearings.

“Congressman Rohrabacher, who has experience with this Committee’s past investigation of corruption in the United Nations Oil for Food program, will be leading our Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. He also participated in investigations into foreign-owned banks under U.S. contact which violated U.S. sanctions on Iran, Cuba, and Libya.

“I am proud to lead this team which will protect and advance America’s interests and values, and not apologize for doing so.

The Vice Chairman and Subcommittee Chairmen of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in the 112th Congress are as follows (Subcommittee Chairmen listed alphabetically by Subcommittee name):

U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegly (CA), Vice Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee
U.S. Rep. Christopher H. Smith (NJ), Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights
U.S. Rep. Donald A. Manzullo (IL), Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific
U.S. Rep. Dan Burton (IN), Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia
U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot (OH), Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia
U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (CA), Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
U.S. Rep. Edward R. Royce (CA), Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade
U.S. Rep. Connie Mack (FL), Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere

A few random observations here. First, I think Royce would have made a great subcommittee chair for Asia and the Pacific. He’s extremely knowledgeable about and engaged on North Korea issues, including human rights issues, proliferation, and money laundering (his highly capable staffer, Young Kim, undoubtedly deserves much credit for this). That said, he’ll be great for the position for which he’s been chosen.

Manzullo, by contrast, hasn’t been vocal about Korea, in or out of the committee room. In the hearings I attended, he had relatively little to say. Maybe this is a matter of his style. We’ll have to see how he does. In Congress, there are members who are dedicated to the issues, while others are mostly concerned about bringing investment into their districts. I’ll just have to watch and see what hearings and witnesses we get on Manzullo’s watch. Before the Democratic takeover in 2006, the Republican subcommittee chair was Jim Leach of Iowa, a decent and fair-minded man with a deep and sincere interest in human rights in the North, but not a conservative on issues of policy or diplomacy.

Dana Rohrabacher, on the other hand, is far from a quiet presence in any hearing. I left one hearing wondering if he shaves with a blowtorch. Going after U.N. profligacy and stupidity will be a good role for him. By stupidity, I refer to the likes of Margaret Chan, whose next gaffe of that sort won’t go unchallenged by Dana Rohrabacher. You could say that Dana Rohrabacher is more conservative than I am on these issues. For example, I recall him being opposed to food aid to North Korea. I’m supportive in principle, but only if the aid is monitored and subject to nutritional surveys of recipients, and since the current North Korean regime will never agree to that, the issue is probably moot for the foreseeable future.

It’s going to be an interesting hearing season next year. It’s too bad that I so seldom have time to attend them anymore.

Take a Drink!

Hillary, U.S. secretary of State, was recently reported to have blustered during her junket of Middle and South American countries that the DPRK poses a threat to the world peace and it is necessary to “convince” the world public of this fact. Such sophism is intended to win the support for the U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK from other countries.

Her remarks about the DPRK’s “threat” to the global peace are brigandish sophism reminiscent of a thief crying “Stop the thief!” Rodong Sinmun Tuesday says in a signed commentary. [KCNA]

At times like this, I think back fondly on the Bush Administration, when we weren’t afraid to talk to our enemies endlessly, because I just can’t stand the thought that there are people out there who hate us. My careful parsing of KCNA’s tone worries me that the inflammatory rhetoric of Hillary and her fellow neocon hard-liners could even jeopardize the prospects for Selig Harrison’s next trip to Pyongyang.

Best KCNA Headline of This Millenium: “Story of hoes Kim Jong Il”

Under grueling interrogation by the Bowibu, the writer denied attempting to publish an unauthorized biography of Kim Jong Eun.

It’s time for another installment of the KCNA drinking game!

I do not think that word means what you think it means.

Citing facts to prove that from a historical point of view the imperialists look down upon those countries with weak military power, force them to meet their unilateral and brigandish demands and consider them as targets of their armed intervention and aggression, the article goes on: [KCNA, Nov. 9. 2009]

kim-jong-il-drinks-kirin.jpgTake a drink!

If a country, though small, increases defence capability, attaching importance to military affairs, the imperialists dare not attack it. This is clearly evidenced by the reality of the DPRK. The war deterrent of the DPRK serves as a powerful treasured sword for protecting the Korean nation from outside forces’ aggression and the peace and security of the Korean Peninsula.

Some cynics might suggest that “war deterrent” is code talk for nuclear weapons, but all educated people know that this is a diplomatic impossibility. Thanks to the diplomatic genius of Christopher Hill and Wendy Sherman, we have two — count ‘em, two! — agreed frameworks that absolutely, positively guarantee that it isn’t so. Just imagine how safe you’ll feel when the brightest minds in our State Department bring home yet another.

Related: Thank you, Ambassador Obvious!

“Kim Jong Il Appreciates Drama”

The understatement of the week, brought to you by KCNA.