Archive for WTF?

I’m sure the “so-called pope” meant no offense, but if KCNA hadn’t norksplained it for me …

I would not have seen it from this perspective: “We would like to ask the pope why he set about his south Korean trip the day when we are making latest tactical rocket test-fire according to our regular plan though there are a lot of days in the year.”

Of course, given His Porcine Majesty’s crowded launch schedule and the absence of forewarning, it’s not exactly easy for His Holiness to squeeze in a visit to Korea in between. Sounds like the rockets were more of that 300-millimeter type.

N. Korea doubles down on racism (plus, our latest op-ed at CNN.com)

Evidently, North Koreans are unfamiliar with The First Rule of Holes:

    Pyongyang, May 12 (KCNA) — The spokesman for the DPRK Foreign Ministry gave the following answer to a question put by KCNA on Monday accusing U.S. officials of pulling up the DPRK over its residents’ criticism of Obama reported by its media:

    The resentment expressed by individuals of the DPRK at Obama recently was a proper reaction to him who malignantly insulted and slandered the dignified DPRK during his junket to south Korea.

    Obama termed the DPRK’s inevitable steps for self-defence a “provocation” and “threats” and cried out for tougher “sanctions”, “pressure” and “not ruling out the use of military force.” Not content with this vitriol, he went the lengths of letting loose a spate of such invectives that the DPRK is a “country which makes its people go hungry and takes a lonely path”, “isolated state”, “abnormal state” and “reckless and irresponsible” government.

    This is an unpardonable insult to the people of the DPRK who are leading a happy life under the benevolent socialist system and considering independence dearer than their life and their resentment at the U.S. is running high.

    The U.S. had better stop letting loose rhetoric about the resentment expressed by DPRK residents at Obama and look back on his unspeakable invectives which enraged them so much.

    The U.S. is trying to cover up the thrice-cursed wrongs committed by Obama and divert elsewhere criticism of him while finding fault with the bitter accusations of Koreans against him, but such a move would get it nowhere. -0-  [KCNA]

Hat tip: The Korea Herald. Overall, it’s striking to me how disinterested the South Korean press has been in this story, in contrast to the high level of interest in the U.S. and Europe. It may be that Koreans are still preoccupied with the Sewol Ferry tragedy, but Koreans really don’t seem to be terribly outraged about this — or, for that matter, about the sexist attacks on their own President. It may be that South Koreans have just built a very high tolerance for North Korea’s offenses, which means North Korea is able to get away with just about anything.

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Update: Maybe I spoke too soon. Yonhap has the story now.

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Update: Professor Lee and I have an op-ed published at CNN.com on the more material aspects of North Korea’s racism and sexism.

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Update: Here are some links to other informed comments about this topic. Dennis Halpin of the Center for Strategic & International Studies wonders why activists who’ve protested far less egregious examples of racism, sexism, and homophobia have given North Korea a pass. Halpin has a good point here. Is there any question that North Korea’s treatment of gays, women, and racial minorities are worse than Brunei’s? If there is, it’s only because North Korea is so good at hiding its crimes from the world.

Writing at Forbes, Don Kirk of the Christian Science Monitor puts North Korea’s racism into the context of its broader xenophobia — its hatred of foreign influences and ideas. Finally, Isaac Stone Fish of Foreign Policy (as if in response to commenter Emil Lewis) writes about North Korea’s long-standing history of anti-black racism.

Really? North Korea called President Obama “a wicked black monkey”? (Update: It’s worse than that; Update 2, now with full translation)

Oh, yes they did:

Park made waste water-like reckless remarks slandering the DPRK’s line on simultaneously developing two fronts after inviting her American master reminiscent of a wicked black monkey to visit south Korea on April 25. [Korea Central News Agency]

Wow. There’s even a slavery reference.

The people are unanimous in deploring the fact that there is no remedy for curing Park’s mental disease as she has gone so mad with hurling mud at the nuclear deterrence of justice which the fellow countrymen in the north have had access to prevent the outside forces from imposing a nuclear disaster upon them.

Worse still, she is making a new ploy so called “human rights issue in the north” aimed at hurting and slandering the fellow compatriots. This is also part of her confrontational hysteria.

Dennis Rodman was not available for comment. Hat tip to Alastair Gale on Twitter.

Regular readers will recall that North Korea recently called the female President of South Korea a “whore” and a “political prostitute,” and called the openly gay Chair of a U.N. Commission of Inquiry, which found evidence of crimes against humanity in North Korea, “a disgusting old lecher with 40-odd-year-long career of homosexuality.” KCNA is also notorious for threatening journalists who criticize North Korean government policies.

A friendly reminder: In 2012, the Korea Central News Agency, or KCNA, signed two memoranda of agreement with the Associated Press, the contents of which remain undisclosed, but which allowed the AP the exclusive right to open a bureau in Pyongyang, to exhibit North Korean propaganda in the United States, to embed two North Korean “journalists” in the AP’s bureau who would write the occasional “news” story, and generally, to show you North Korea just as Kim Jong Un wants you to see it.

Because the terms of those MOAs haven’t been disclosed, I don’t know whether the AP is providing any financial compensation or support to KCNA. Maybe Paul Colford, the AP’s Director Media Relations, will tell you what he wouldn’t tell me.

North Korea’s words, as offensive as they are, are still just words. North Korea’s crimes against humanity are a far greater outrage. Want to get involved in fighting them? Here’s how.

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Update: There’s more. Professor Sung-Yoon Lee of Tufts University writes in with a link to a separate article – a long, poisonous, racist screed against President Obama in Korean, also published by KCNA. Based on my skim, it will translate into something as noxious as anything you’d find in a Stormfront comment thread. Not even KCNA translated it, but I will. Here’s a taste of it, as forwarded by Professor Lee:

This piece in Korean is directed entirely at Obama. They take racism to another level, with really unspeakable vitriol: “Obama’s gut-wrenching, revolting facial features,” “monkey climbing up this and that tree and scrounging up fruits on the ground,” “it’s certain that Obama has slipped out of the body of a monkey,” “he should live as a monkey in an African natural zoo licking the breadcrumbs thrown by spectators,” etc.

It’s not translated into English. The White House should translate it and see the North Korean regime as it is: a vile, despicable lot beyond reason and beneath the consideration of civilization.

This goes on for paragraph after paragraph. My poor, suffering wife promised to help me translate the whole thing over the next day or so, unless one of you would like to take this on. Needless to say, I’d never print anything like this if it didn’t have substantial public interest value. The fact that a foreign government would allow its official news service to publish this is a matter of global public interest.

For those who reject the word “evil,” I want to challenge that rejection. Remember, to the government of North Korea, racism isn’t just talk. It’s what some live by, and others die by.

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Update: Welcome, Washington Post readers.

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Update: As promised, here’s a translation of the complete article. Some of the North Korean vernacular is virtually untranslatable, so we did our best to capture the meaning, but left some particularly difficult phrases in the original Korean. Our hope is that a few of you may offer upgrades to this translation.
Screen Shot 2014-05-10 at 7.32.05 PM Screen Shot 2014-05-09 at 10.50.49 PM Screen Shot 2014-05-09 at 10.50.06 PMOn the device of quoting a North Korean citizen, we saw the same device used as the North Koreans started to warm up their sexist attacks on President Park. But then, I suspect that Mr. Kang is about as authentic as Comrade Ogilvy, or at best, Comrade Stekhanov.

Eagerly awaiting Christine Ahn’s reaction to North Korea’s sexism and homophobia

Now that North Korea’s state media have called South Korea’s female president a “whore,” a “prostitute,” a “crazy bitch,” and a “comfort woman,” no one will ever have to invent sexism again to deflect criticism of North Korea’s crimes against humanity, and whoever does will, from this date forward, have to argue her away around real, vicious, state-sponsored misogyny.

What Park did before Obama this time reminds one of an indiscreet girl who earnestly begs a gangster to beat someone or a capricious whore who asks her fancy man to do harm to other person while providing sex to him. [....]

She fully met the demands of her master for aggression, keeping mum about the nukes of the U.S. and desperately finding fault with fellow countrymen in the north over their nukes. She thus laid bare her despicable true colors as a wicked sycophant and traitor, a dirty comfort woman for the U.S. and despicable prostitute selling off the nation. [KCNA]

Separately, the Rodong Sinmun called Park a “political whore” who had “oil[ed] her tongue on Obama.” In the last month, North Korea has also called Park a “crazy bitch” and “human scum,” and overflown her residence with reconnaissance UAVs. It called her (admittedly implausible) reunification plan “a psychopath’s dream” and told her to “keep[] her disgusting mouth closed.” And as I noted at the time, North Korea called Park “a political prostitute” last November.

Where to begin? I suppose equally statesmanlike ideas can heard at police booking desks anywhere, from men who have been arrested for violating restraining orders, although in every “Cops” episode I’ve seen, the censors left a bit more to the imagination. (Also, those men didn’t learn their English in Pyongyang.) In any event, it’s safe to conclude that the charm offensive and that anti-”slander” deal are both over.

No self-described feminist can ever overlook this language without forfeiting either her claim to feminism or her credibility. In case you wonder, this is not an empty hypothesis. I can name at least one self-described feminist (and maybe one more) who has overlooked this, will almost assuredly continue to do so, and is occasionally invited to appear on broadcasts whose audiences must number in the hundreds (also, Al Jazeera). Something tells me Pyongyang’s latest isn’t a deal-breaker for her. Or, for that matter, for Al Jazeera.

Now, unlike the reporters at AFP, I didn’t find where KCNA allegedly called our African-American President a “pimp,” but “fancy man” suggests as much, and invokes crude racial and sexual stereotypes of pimps in purple leisure suits that even North Korean propaganda writers can’t be ignorant of. Only North Korea could get away with language like this. (I wonder what Dennis Rodman thinks about it. No, on further thought, I suppose I don’t.)

I offer no opinion as to whether these words lower KCNA’s own bar after last week’s homophobic slurs against Justice Kirby. But I do hope Stephen Bosworth and Robert Gallucci read this part:

The outcome of Obama’s south Korean junket clearly proved that the DPRK was entirely just when it judged and determined that it should counter the U.S., the sworn enemy, by force only, not just talking, and should finally settle accounts with it through an all-out nuclear showdown. 

Oh, and North Korea is saying that it’s done with South Korea as long as Park is President.

There is no remedy for Park and there is nothing to expect from her as far as the inter-Korean relations are concerned as long as she remains a boss of Chongwadae. [....]

Genes remain unchanged. Needless to say, her present behavior suggests that her fate will be just the same as that of her father Park Chung Hee who met a miserable death after being forsaken by his master and public while crying out for “unification by prevailing over communism” and “unification by stamping out communism”. 

The DPRK will never pardon anyone who dares challenge its dignity, social system and its line of simultaneously developing the two fronts, the statement warned. 

On a related note, North Korea, which was removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism on October 11, 2008, also threatened a preemptive attack and to obliterate South Korea this week. Discuss among yourselves.

Oh, and North Korea’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador, Ri Tong-il, enlarged the definition of diplomacy recently by saying that “Pyongyang has drawn a ‘red line’ for the U.S.,” accused arch-neocon Barack Obama of being “hell-bent on regime change,” and said that “[t]he U.S. itself may be in danger if it keeps denying our self-defensive military measures.” (Ri also said that there “are no [human rights] abuses” in North Korea, and that North Korea has “best social system in the world.”)

It’s sad to consider that somewhere in this world, the composition of such language is deemed a talent that qualifies a person for high diplomatic office. But these are, after all, just words. The more important feminist grievances against North Korea ought to be against petty despotisms like forbidding women from wearing pants or riding bicycles, or telling them what hairstyles they can wear, or the greater despotisms that deny them their life’s aspirations and force them into sexual slavery instead.

N. Korea keeps it classy, calls Chair of U.N. Commission “a disgusting old lecher with 40-odd-year-long career of homosexuality”

Last week, the Honorable Michael Kirby, a retired Justice of the High Court of Australia, and the Chairman of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry for Human Rights in North Korea, was in Washington. It was my honor to be invited to two events with Justice Kirby — a small-group breakfast meeting (Kirby called this is a “barbarous” custom) hosted by the Australian Embassy, and a small-group dinner hosted by a member of the Board of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. I debated whether I should accept both invitations, but ended up going to both because I suspected that the discussions would be different. I guessed correctly. (I had to miss the main event because of work obligations, but you can watch it here.)

I’ve often formed views of great men from how they were described in the newspapers, and almost as often, I’ve found that my expectations were greater than their presence. Justice Kirby is not such a man. Sagacious, eloquent, and quietly determined, Michael Kirby is the sort of man my mother calls a “mensch.” He is the right man for the great and historic work he was chosen to do. Although I don’t believe the other participants in those meetings would want to be named or quoted, I’ll simply say that Justice Kirby emphasized to people more important than myself that he does not see his work as done. It was clear, too, that Kirby has the gravitas to make this issue impossible for our State Department to forget.

Today, in a delectable irony, North Korea’s official “news” service has done a great service toward publicizing Justice Kirby’s cause.

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[Justice Kirby at dinner last week. Author’s photograph.]

Justice Kirby hasn’t made a secret of his sexual orientation since 1999, before a general social acceptance of homosexuality prevailed. He and his partner have lived together almost as long as I’ve been alive. That’s why I figured it was only a matter of time before the North Koreans said something stupid, like this, about him:

As for Kirby who took the lead in cooking the “report”, he is a disgusting old lecher with a 40-odd-year-long career of homosexuality. He is now over seventy, but he is still anxious to get married to his homosexual partner.

This practice can never be found in the DPRK boasting of the sound mentality and good morals, and homosexuality has become a target of public criticism even in Western countries, too. In fact, it is ridiculous for such gay to sponsor dealing with others’ human rights issue.  [KCNA, Apr., 22, 2014]

Huh. So I suppose the North Koreans haven’t heard of Bayard Rustin either.

Sometimes, I’ve caught myself describing North Korea as like South Korea, only more so. The “no gays in Korea” myth still persisted when I lived in South Korea a dozen years ago. Although there’s now open discussion of homosexuality in South Korean culture — and probably on some of those DVDs smuggled into the North — Korean culture remains very conservative.

As been already known, what was put up by Kirby and his group as data is all testimonies made by those “defectors”, who are runaways or terrorists as they betrayed their country and nation after committing indelible crimes.

However, the Kirby group styling itself a judge accepted such unconfirmed data to cook up the “report”. This makes one question if the group has an elementary legal sense. After all, they changed their position as judges with money paid by the U.S. and its followers.

At present, many countries and even Western media and personages are astonished at the Kirby group’s “report” presented to a sacred UN body, terming it a replica of Nazi-style arbitrariness. 

Oh? Where?

It is so pitiable for the U.S. and its followers to attempt to frighten the DPRK by letting such dirty swindlers, ready to do anything for money, invent an anti-DPRK false document.

The army and people of the DPRK reject the fabricated document as a foul crime unprecedented in the world history of human rights and will surely force them to pay dearly for it. -0-

Christine Ahn and Christine Hong were not available for comment. (Someone please remember to tweet this to them, just to gaze upon their paroxysms of self-contradiction.)

Now, in the grander scheme, I suppose Justice Kirby has probably heard more offensive and sillier things than this. He would probably agree that KCNA’s words (to the extent they are merely that) fall low on the hierarchy of North Korea’s offenses against civilization, although they do give us further reason to question the hypocritical nonsense of its propagandists who’ve presented North Korea as relatively tolerant toward gays. Still, if anyone out there didn’t find racial infanticide, public executions, concentration camps, and deliberate mass starvation offensive enough, maybe North Korea’s homophobia — and our darkest fears about what actions follow in the trail of its words — may just manage to offend whole new constituencies.

In the past week, our attention has been called to Justice Kirby’s report by the editors of The Washington Post, Marco Rubio, Human Rights WatchVitit Muntarbhorn, The Brookings Institution, and Marzuki Darusman, among others. As a consequence of its latest act of public relations genius, North Korea has now given The Washington Post a whole new reason to talk about Justice Kirby’s report, and gasp anew at North Korea’s uniquely oblivious strain of stupidity. No doubt, his response will be a major story in the news cycle everywhere (except, ironically, for gay-unfriendly South Korea) for a few more days after that.

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.

Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 6.38.01 AM

 

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 German) catches on and pulls this down.

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Update: This post was corrected after publication.

So, Dennis — other than that, how is the trip going so far?

Dennis Rodman’s September trip to North Korea included a trip to Kim’s yacht near Wonsan, which Rodman described as “like going to Hawaii or Ibiza.” Evidently, this trip hasn’t been as pleasant:

A day after the former basketball star sang “Happy Birthday” to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and led a squad of former NBA players in a friendly game, Rodman issued the apology through publicist Jules Feiler in an email message to The Associated Press.

“I want to apologize,” Rodman said. “I take full responsibility for my actions. It had been a very stressful day. Some of my teammates were leaving because of pressure from their families and business associates. My dreams of basketball diplomacy was quickly falling apart. I had been drinking. It’s not an excuse but by the time the interview happened I was upset. I was overwhelmed. It’s not an excuse, it’s just the truth.

“I want to first apologize to Kenneth Bae’s family. I want to apologize to my teammates and my management team. I also want to apologize to Chris Cuomo. I embarrassed a lot of people. I’m very sorry. At this point I should know better than to make political statements. I’m truly sorry.” [AP]

Even Kim Jong Un appears to have been taken by surprise when Rodman burst into “Happy Birthday.” And Max Fisher, who often emphasizes the quirky aspects of North Korea, thinks “Rodman may have crossed some sort of line,” and has reached “the point where what he’s doing stops being funny and becomes something more serious.”

So, to summarize — Rodman has fallen off the wagon, made himself into a national pariah, driven away some of the retired players who joined his tour, hardened global attitudes against his new best pal, and quite possibly freaked out Kim Jong Un himself — which may be the most unwise thing he’s done all week.

If anyone asks Rodman what he gave Kim Jong Un for his birthday, we might also learn whether he’s also in legal trouble for violating U.S. sanctions laws.

But at least he still has Jesse Jackson, who isn’t wrong when he says that Rodman is the reason we’re talking about North Korea. And to be fair here, a lot of us have piled on Rodman for not talking about human rights, but he is, after all, just a washed-up basketball player. What people are really upset about is Rodman’s effusive and cretinous affection for a mass murderer. If Rodman had just stuck with the story that he’s not a diplomat and that’s not his job, plenty of people would have accepted that.

As Rodman implies, it’s the diplomats who are responsible for talking to Kim Jong Un about human rights. Unfortunately, Kim Jong Un isn’t willing to meet with them, and the specific person whose job it is to “promote and coordinate North Korean human rights and humanitarian issues“ is a nice, quiet man you’ve never heard of because he’s wholly ineffective in that role, because he’s trying not to rock any diplomatic boats (or, if you prefer, yachts).

But strategic silence isn’t going to change North Korea or achieve our national interests. We brought Iran back to the bargaining table by sanctioning it to the edge of extinction. Why not North Korea? Because the Obama Administration has no North Korea policy, and its sanctions against North Korea are pale shadow of our sanctions against Iran. Our sanctions against Iran were forced down the Obama Administration’s throat by Congress. Hopefully, that will happen with North Korea next.

But what then? Even when our diplomats do meet with the North Koreans, they do everything they can to sideline, bury, and marginalize the question of human rights. Rodman certainly is the easiest target here, but the smarminess of our diplomats, the incompetence of the Obama Administration, and — above all — the atrocious conduct of Kim Jong Un himself are really more deserving of serious criticism.

[Update: This post has been corrected to note that Rodman's "Ibiza" experience in Wonsan was in September 2013, and not his "last" trip to North Korea (which was in December). Oh, and it was Rodman, not Kim Jong Un, who sang "Happy Birthday" to Kim Jong Un.]

Elle Magazine makes a morally retarded fashion statement about North Korea

When I first saw the report here that an Elle Magazine columnist had declared “North Korea chic” to be one of this year’s top fashion trends, I immediately assumed that someone was failing to appreciate someone’s rather tasteless parody. When Americans do think of North Korea, they often infantilize it. Tasteless parodies may be our third-most common reaction to North Korea, after apathy and passive disgust. Sadly, having seen the screenshot of Joe Zee’s post, I think Zee was seriously suggesting that “North Korea chic” was a real trend:

This time, it’s edgier, even dangerous, with sharp buckles and clasps and take-no-prisoners tailoring.

Which made me laugh — because, you know, take no prisoners! And kill off the ones you have! Ha-ha! Get it?

As of last night, the offending page had been removed from the slide show and sent to Elle’s memory hole. All that remained were some reader comments (if one really “reads” Elle) that, given the venue, were encouraging for their relative moral depth.

This is disgusting and not funny. North Korea chic? Where are the starving and beaten children, women and men? Learn about what’s really happening in North Korea before you make stupid titles like this.

Not to mention ‘take-no-prisoners tailoring’. Way to cheapen the experience of people suffering in gulags up and down North Korea, Elle.

Leaving the slide for “N” nondescript only makes it more evident of the ignorant mistake you made. How about you stop hiring “fashionistas” and hire someone can use a dictionary or is actually aware of current trends? Nautical? Navy? Neon? I could go on if you are at a loss of ideas.

Elle does not acknowledge removing the image or apologize for publishing it in the first place, but does acknowledge its readers’ outrage in an unsigned post written in a shallow, bouncy style you’re more used to seeing in Tiger Beat (don’t try to deny it). I left a comment at that last link. Perhaps you’ll want to leave a comment of your own?

Max Fisher weighs in here, with the inevitable Asma Assad comparison. See also here and here.

Is the next Banco Delta Asia in Malaysia?

Over the weekend, a lot people were giggling at the decision by Paul Chan, President of HELP University, to award an honorary degree in economics of Kim Jong Un. Foreign Policy’s Isaac Stone Fish, who first revealed the story, obligingly prints Chan’s manifesto, which reads like the work of a true belieber — a man who writes as if he has spent an inordinate amount of time watching High School Musical over and over again. I have fond memories of my friendships with Malaysian students during law school, so it saddens me to say that this can’t be unrelated to the weirdness of Malaysia’s political culture. At the end of the day, however, the main consequence of this will be to make HELP University look ridiculous, and to highlight how little Kim Jong Un really knows about economics.

What concerns me more is how the weirdness of Malaysia’s political culture may play a role in North Korea’s illicit arms deals and the evasion of U.N. Security Council sanctions. The Korea Herald has called Malaysia “a cornerstone for North Korea’s diplomacy in Southeast Asia.” Malaysian banks are suspected of hosting offshore bank accounts for North Korea, and of serving as financial intermediaries for North Korea’s arms deals with Burma, long after those transactions were banned by U.N. Security Council resolutions. As of July, Malaysia had not yet provided the U.N. a report of its compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions sanctioning North Korea. Today, it is one of just two states that still has direct Air Koryo flights to Pyongyang.

Say, do you think Kim Jong Un might just be a complete doofus who happens to have nuclear weapons?

SO THE FIRST WELL-KNOWN AMERICAN to meet with Kim Jong Un is not an AP interviewer, a tribute-bearing Bill Richardson, a ransom-bearing Jimmy Carter, or first choice Michael Jordan.  It is this man:

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Strain, if you must, to make this into some sort of soft power diplomatic coup; it really looks like a tragic sequel to “Being There.” The very weirdness of it all is evident in some priceless exchanges from yesterday’s State Department daily press briefing.

Delectably, the AP’s part-time Pyongyang correspondent and photographer were scooped by Vice Media, led by Shane Smith, a man who is to journalism what The Dude is to alternative dispute resolution.  Nate Thayer tells the story here.  At least Smith, unlike the AP, does not ask us to take his brand of journalism seriously. What makes all of this even harder to explain is that Smith’s ventures into North Korea and North Korean logging camps in Siberia have portrayed North Korea as bizarre, controlling, brutish, and ridiculous.  Smith, in other words, scooped the AP without (so far) having pulled any punches or sacrificed his objectivity. That’s why I’m willing to see the product Vice produces before I’m as critical as others have been, although I applaud another unlikely source, Gawker, for putting this circus into its rightful context.

You can’t help pity the AP which, for all its literary and literal prostrations – for all its willingness to make jarring ethical compromises to gain the regime’s favor – was frustrated in its priapistic lust for an interview with His Porcine Majesty.  It looks like we’ll all have to wait a little longer to learn whether it’s briefs or boxers.  Meanwhile, Jean Lee, the AP’s Korea Bureau Chief, must quote pesky upstart Vice to even report what Kim said to Rodman, and was otherwise relegated to tweeting pictures of sandwiches.  No word yet on that AP expose on the starvation and cannibalism said to be ongoing a few miles to the south of Pyongyang.  Maybe Vice will beat them to that, too.

I’ve been pondering why the North Koreans would snub such willing instruments as Jean Lee and Bill Richardson, people who could actually deliver things a wily regime could use to advance its coldly calculated interests.  Instead, it left them all at the altar for a man who does, admittedly, look rather fetching in a wedding dress.  The resulting publicity mostly portrays Kim Jong Un as a bizarre, detached hedonist in a kingdom of helots, a gluttonous man-child who is blithely apathetic about statecraft or the welfare of his pitiful subjects.  Out west, where I’m from, our fathers teach us to take better care of our tools than this.

After consulting William of Occam, I offer this novel hypothesis: Could it be that Kim Jong Un is just an impulsive imbecile who happens to be the nominal leader of a state with nuclear weapons? Nothing we know about his academic history or his policy record contradicts my hypothesis.

Update: What. The. Fuck. (Hat tip).

Birth control, Pyongyang Style: Lady-Mullets!

Sure, you say, a list of 18 state-approved hairstyles certainly seems generous and libertine, but on closer examination, it’s actually more like 18 pictures of three hairstyles — three hideous, man-shriveling hairstyles — one of which (6, 10) is a mullet, and the rest of which appear to have been inspired by the 80s metal band Queensrÿche.

According to late-breaking news from New York, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has demanded an inquiry, but China has blocked it. And at the risk of offering cultural sensitivity training to KNCA, do you suppose they could have picked a number without all the unflattering connotations that “18″ has for women in the Korean culture?

Afterthought:  The Daily Mail is only marginally more credible than KNCA, so I wouldn’t take this as authoritative evidence that North Korea allows only 18 female hairstyles, but more reputable sources hold that North Korea has paid undue attention to the the hairstyles of its subjects.  There is also this:

Sometimes, a missile is just a missile

Every time North Korea tests a rocket, Hans Blix sheds a little tear and Ban Ki Moon’s fluffy white tail stops wagging, because North Korean rocket tests violate three U.N. Security Council Resolutions — 1695 (which bans “all activities related to its ballistic missile programme”), UNSCR 1718 (ditto, and requires N. Korea to “re-establish its pre-existing commitments to a moratorium on missile launching”), and 1874 (which bans “any launch using ballistic missile technology”).  North Korea’s official response is that it is launching peaceful satellites, not testing ICBMs.  You may be wondering if anyone on the Outer Earth is still fool enough to believe this.

There’s little reason to doubt North Korea’s claim that it simply wants to put a satellite into space.  [John Feffer, Foreign Policy in Focus]

Maybe John Feffer just needs more reason, so he can reason his way to what’s obvious to the rest of us.

North Korea exhibited the fuselage of what is presumed to be the long-range rocket it launched in December, and explicitly called it a ballistic missile, despite its claims to the outside world that the Unha-3 was part of its peaceful space development program, a report said Monday.

The report by Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun quoted North Korean sources as saying that the fuselage was displayed under the name “Hwasong-13″ among the exhibitions of the country’s missile lineup in an exhibition hall in Pyongyang. The Hwasong line also includes shorter-range scud missiles, which the country has produced since the 1980′s.  [Yonhap]

Well, you say, if they’re missiles, then they must be for strictly defensive deterrence.  No need to infer any malicious intent here, right?  So we now have this, via North Korea’s quasi-official Uriminzokkiri:

Uriminzokkiri roughly translates to “among our race only” and is aimed at South Korean norksimps. It is reportedly run from China, a country that selectively decides what speech should be permitted based on the state’s value judgments about its content.  Or so you may have heard.  (Hat tip)

If your memory is long enough, may recall that other norksimps in South Korea, the Korean Teachers’ Union, produced an equally sickening video for schoolchildren before the 2005 APEC Forum in Busan, featuring replays of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, set to “What a Wonderful World.”  A theme seems to be emerging.

I’m sure that all across the more progressive quarters of this world, there are fevered minds with room enough for the conflicting lunacies that the Jews and neocons pulled off 9/11, and also that on 9/11, nineteen great martyrs fulfilled a divine mandate of vengeance against toddlers, flight attendants, and office workers.  Similarly, there’s clearly some market in some quarters of Korea for fantasies of North Korea’s peaceful satellites destroying American cities.  I hope that market is a whole lot smaller than it was a decade ago.

If nothing else, it’s a useful reminder that the North Koreans aren’t just fucking around.  We already know what they’re capable of, morally speaking.  Faster, please.

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.

Really? DJ Horked the Whole Sunshine Thing from the Moonies?

Depending on your perspective, this revelation may soften your image of Reverend Moon, or you might be saying to yourself, “yeah, that figures.” Having lived in South Korea during the height of the Sunshine craze and observed it with more pity than anger ever since, the whole thing certainly looked like a cult to me.

Moon was an early practitioner of the kind of conciliatory politics that the South Korean government would eventually embrace in its now-abandoned “Sunshine Policy,” which it introduced in the late ’90s in an effort to build friendlier ties with the North. In 1991, the self-made mogul visited North Korea’s founding leader, Kim Il Sung, in Pyongyang, nine years before South Korean president Kim dea-Jung’s groundbreaking visit to the North Korean capital. “Moon began his efforts to engage with the North Koreans at a time when the South Korean government still formally opposed that kind of interaction,” says Scott Snyder, a Korea expert with the Council on Foreign Relations.

But Moon had hardly been coopted by his hosts. The Washington Times published a conspicuously defiant opening paragraph about the meeting: “President Kim Il-sung of North Korea, one of the last of the Stalinist states, yesterday discussed reconciliation of the two Koreas with a man he once imprisoned, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the founder of the fiercely anticommunist Unification Church.” Moon’s flagship American media property published original reporting about the “horror” of the country’s “communist gulag,” even at a time when the Unification Church was engaged in precedent-setting investment in that same country. This approach was not without its drawbacks for Moon and his business empire. [Armin Rosen, The Atlantic]

In related news, Moon’s funeral is widely expected to be “all weird.”

Sticks and Stones

Sure, it’s creepy when North Korea teaches children to torment effigies of your president, but that’s the kind of insult a mature society learns to ignore.  The next time the North erupts in contrived outrage about some perceived slight to its leaders, just put that into perspective.  Words are just words, unless they’re threats. When North Korea communicates threats, we need to treat those like acts of terrorism and sanction them accordingly.

North Korea’s jamming of GPS used by airliners, of course, is more than just words — it has caused “four close calls where passenger jets approaching Incheon and Gimpo airports abruptly shifted course when their GPS malfunctioned and landed only after circling the airports.” I can see why South Koreans would call that terrorism, too.

North Korea was removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism on October 11, 2008.

North Korea Imitates South Park

Yonhap reports:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un lashed out at officials of an amusement park for neglecting to take proper care of the facility’s grounds and rides, the North’s state media said Wednesday in an apparent move to highlight the leader’s concern for his people.

North Korean media, including the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), said Kim inspected the Mangyongdae Funfair in Pyongyang and scolded officials there after discovering flaws throughout the park.  [....]

According to the news reports, Kim Jong-un noticed a damaged path in front of a Viking ride and called it “pathetic,” while also pointing out flaws in the park’s gardens and a roller coaster, the condition of paint on rides and the safety of a water park.

The Associated Press has exclusive video.

From the episode summary for “Cartmanland,” season 5, episode 6:

Cartman’s grandmother dies (which Cartman treats as nothing more than an inconvenience to his weekend plans) and he inherits her life savings of one million dollars because the rest of the family would likely have spent the money on crack. Cartman decides to buy an amusement park, fulfilling his dreams not only of having a park all to himself without having to wait in lines, but also for the pleasure of telling other people that they can’t come to it, presenting it as a reference to How the Grinch Stole Christmas! [....]

Cartman decides to hire a security guard to keep trespassers out, especially Stan and Kyle. Cartman believes the guard will accept a few free rides a day as payment, but the guard insists on a cash salary. Cartman is unable to pay after spending all his inheritance to buy the park, so the guard advises him to let a couple of people in a day, for a fee, which should pay for the salary. Cartman also believes from the guard’s advice that he should not be inconvenienced by a few customers in the large park, so he sets off the rest of the day to enjoy the rides. Much to his dismay, the customers form a line to one of the rides that he wants to ride. More expenses begin to pile up for maintenance, refreshments, utilities and such to keep the park intact.