Posts Tagged ‘North Korea Leaders’

Popular news satire site The Onion recently posted an article proclaiming Kim Jong Un to be the sexiest man alive.

While this is all good for a light chuckle, the People’s Daily, China’s online communist newspaper, mistook the spoof for reality and ran a 55-photo spread on the North Korean dictator.  The People’s Daily had been taken in by satirical news sources before, and quoted The Onion article in their coverage of Kim Jong Un.

The Guardian posted the following article outlining the whole, hilarious thing (see below).  I would recommend taking a look at the collection of photos before everything is taken down.

  • Associated Press in Beijing
  • guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 27 November 2012 07.53 EST

The online version of China‘s Communist party newspaper has hailed a report by The Onion naming North Korean dictator as the Sexiest Man Alive – not realising it is satire.

The People’s Daily on Tuesday ran a 55-page photo spread on its website in a tribute to the round-faced leader, under the headline North Korea‘s top leader named The Onion’s Sexiest Man Alive for 2012.

Quoting the Onion’s spoof report, the Chinese newspaper wrote: “With his devastatingly handsome, round face, his boyish charm, and his strong, sturdy frame, this Pyongyang-bred heartthrob is every woman’s dream come true.”

The People’s Daily cited the Onion as saying: “Blessed with an air of power that masks an unmistakable cute, cuddly side, Kim made this newspaper’s editorial board swoon with his impeccable fashion sense, chic short hairstyle, and, of course, that famous smile.”

The photos that the People’s Daily selected include Kim on horseback squinting into the light and Kim waving towards a military parade. In other photos, Kim is wearing sunglasses and smiling, or touring a facility with his wife.

It is not the first time a state-run Chinese newspaper has fallen for a fictional report by The Onion.

In 2002, the Beijing Evening News, one of the capital city’s biggest tabloids at the time, published as news the fictional account that the US Congress wanted a new building and that it might leave Washington. The Onion article was a deadpan spoof of the way sports teams threaten to leave cities in order to get new stadiums.

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A cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized, heroic, and, at times god-like public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise.  A cult of personality is similar to hero worship, except that it is established by mass media and propaganda.

In North Korea, everything is run in totality by the government.  All news, all media, and art are carefully monitored and controlled by the regime.  By carefully crafting the message they send to its people, the North Korean government has been able to create one the longest lasting personality cult in modern history– centered around the Kim family.  North Korea is the only non-monarchical country to have successive blood-related changes of power.

Inside the countries borders, it is impossible to go anywhere without seeing propaganda posters, sculptures, or other works of art of the “Great Leader” (Kim Il Sung), the “Supreme Leader” (Kim Jong Il), or the current dictator, Kim Jong Un.  Their names adorn everything, massive sculptures populate the cities, and their portraits are hung on everything.  Every household is required to prominently display the portraits of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, and Kim Jong Un in the living room.  Every newscast espouses the virtues of the Dear Leaders.  When one of the leaders dies, the people turn hysterical.  From a young age, North Koreans are taught that, instead of praising God or any other higher power, to thank and give praise to the Kim Il Sung (for bountiful harvests, for good fortune, for everything).

The indoctrination is total.

Through carefully transmitting a very finely constructed narrative around the leaders, the North Korean government has been able to elevate the Kims to near-deity status.  For example, before he assumed control of the government and his father’s passing, a myriad of rumors began to circulate about Kim Jong Il:

He was walking at three weeks and talking at eight weeks. He wrote six operas in three years at university, as well as no fewer than 1,500 books. The “Lodestar of the 21st Century” is also credited with 11 holes-in-one and a 38-under par the first time he picked up a golf club and is equally a genius at architecture and directing movies.  [Full article on the Cult of Personality from The Telegraph can be found HERE.]

Because there is nothing that the North Korean people can read, hear, or watch to refute this information, most of them buy whole-heartedly into the cult of personality surrounding its leading family.

Or, if they do not buy into it… they certainly keep quiet about it in fear of harsh retaliation by government police.

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For a brief but clear timeline of the events leading up to the Korean War and the formation of North Korea, check out the attached video, from the documentary film Kimjongilia.  To see the film in its entirety, check out THIS blog post.

The clip in the below video, cued to start as the timeline begins, lasts roughly two and a half minutes.   (If the video does not cue up at the right point, then fast forward to 2:33 and watch until about 4:52)  The timeline acts as a pretty great overview for those unfamiliar with the history of the Korean peninsula over the past hundred yeas or so.

Or, if you’d prefer to read a lengthy timeline and study up on the history in more detail, then see the fantastic detailed timeline, as compiled by BBC News.

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The official political ideology of juche is what guides the North Korean worldview today.  Juche is often simply defined as “self-reliance” and is Kim Il Sung’s interpretation of Marxist-Lenninist principles as they pertain to North Korea.  Juche relies on complete political, economic, and military independence.

In Kim Il Sung’s own words,

Establishing juche means, in a nutshell, being the master of revolution and reconstruction in one’s own country. This means holding fast to an independent position, rejecting dependence on others, using one’s own brains, believing in one’s own strength, displaying the revolutionary spirit of self-reliance, and thus solving one’s own problems for oneself on one’s own responsibility under all circumstances.

To read a fantastic overview of the juche philosophy, including an explanation of its key ideologies, an overview of its history, and an outline of its philosophical influences, check out the following article by Carol Lee in the Stanford Journal of East Asian Affairs.

Highly recommended reading for anyone trying to grasp an understanding the way North Koreans view the world.

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