[Images: Reuters; screenshot]
“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,” reports the — wait. Stop. UNICORNS? That’s an actual snippet from a report from the Korean Central News Agency, the state news agency of North Korea.
Read more. [Image: Flickr/Christina Welsh (Rin)]
We’re not here to debate whether or not North Korea’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, is the sexiest man alive. No, we’re here to snicker that The Onion fooled China’s communist paper into thinking it so. The actual article from the People’s Daily Online, the official newspaper of China’s communist party, isn’t much more than taking a few quotes from the Onion article and smacking them onto a 55-PAGE SLIDESHOW GALLERY of Kim looking all majestic and whatnot.
Read more. [Image: The Korea Times, People’s Daily Online]
North Koreans are a mystery. And that’s perhaps why whenever we see brief glimpses of their wacky roller coasters or their version of “Gangnam Style,” we immediately add those details to our still-developing profiles of these mystery people. We’re still digesting the news today that North Koreans really love Gone with the Wind.The AP’s Tim Sullivan tries to make sense of it all, throwing all kinds of theories up against the wall, from a narrative of how antebellum life in Atlanta is like Pyongyang, to stories of secret feminism, to a slave narrative. “In North Korea only the strong survive … That’s the most compelling message of the novel,” a former NoKo black marketer told Sullivan. ”The weak perish in `Gone With the Wind,’ … That is something that North Koreans understand,” he added. Okay, we’ll buy that.
Read more. [Image: Flickr]
North Korea may be vowing to reduce South Korea to ashes in “three or for minutes,” but that doesn’t mean it can’t pay homage to South Korea’s most beloved export, i.e., global pop sensation PSY. In a sign that Gangnam Fever has crossed the 38th parallel, the North has posted a “Gangnam Style” parody video on the official government website Uriminzokkiri designed to mock South Korean presidential candidate Park Geun-hye.
Read more. [Images: AP, PSY]
North Korea’s official propaganda outlet, the Korean Central News Agency, recently declared the state’s appreciation for all those young school kids who “helped” manufacture rocket-shooting tanks for the People’s Army. The announcement, which coincided with a military parade in the country’s second-largest city to show off the vehicles, also thanked the “Democratic Women’s Union”:Multiple-launch rocket systems “Sonyon-ho” and “Nyomaeng-ho” manufactured with the assistance of school youth and children and members of the Democratic Women’s Union of Korea (DWUK) across the country were presented to units of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) with due ceremony at Hamhung Square in South Hamgyong Province on Thursday to mark the 80th anniversary of the KPA.
Those rockets are associated with their will to remain true to the Party’s Songun revolutionary leadership generation after generation and their patriotic desire to make contributions to bolstering the nation’s defence capability.
Multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS, in military parlance) are serious pieces of equipment, meant to fire guided or unguided explosives over dozens or miles. That they were apparently built in part by school-aged kids is a reminder that North Korean society is so militarized — and so exploited — that even children are skilled and practiced at constructing sophisticated mechanical and electronic weaponry. That the state would actually boast its use of child labor for building tanks is a reminder of the extent to which military nationalism has twisted North Korean society.
Read more. [Image: KNCA/Reuters]
In a massive spectacle held in Pyongyang over the weekend, North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong Un, addressed an audience of thousands. His appearance was part of a week-long celebration of the birth of the nation’s founder Kim Il Sung. Kim Jong Un, who was recently named “supreme commander,” promised to continue a military-first policy, despite chronic economic and food shortages. Foreign photojournalists invited for the celebrations have been sending back hundreds of images — but viewers back home must work to read between the lines. As you view these images, keep in mind that the photographers are strictly limited, only able to capture pre-approved subjects in sanctioned settings. These shapes, colors, and choreographed formations form the image North Korea wants to project. But even photographs like these can give us glimpses of an individual among the masses, inspiring empathy or curiosity. As we look at these members of a long-impoverished, tightly controlled society, we can only study their faces and imagine what they might truly be thinking.
See more. [Images: Reuters, AFP/Getty]
Look at the top photo. None of the dancers are smiling.
The North Korean government recently invited dozens of foreign journalists into its secretive country to cover the 100th birthday celebration for founder Kim Il Sung on April 15. Among pageants and openings, the event drawing the most attention is the scheduled launch of a three-stage Unha-3 rocket carrying a weather satellite. The launch is already drawing criticism from Western governments: If successful, it could demonstrate North Korea’s capacity to produce an intercontinental missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead. Despite their official invitation, foreign photographers are still restricted — escorted wherever they go and unable to photograph more than they can see within selected facilities or from the windows of buses and trains.
See more. [Images: AP, AFP/Getty]
Nine years after watching his mother’s hanging, Shin In Geun squirmed through the electric fence that surrounds Camp 14 and ran off through the snow into the North Korean wilderness. It was January 2, 2005. Before then, no one born in a North Korean political prison camp had ever escaped. As far as can be determined, Shin is still the only one to do it.
He was 23 years old and knew no one outside the fence.
Within a month, he had walked into China. Within two years, he was living in South Korea. Four years later, he was living in Southern California.
Stunted by malnutrition, he is short and slight — five feet six inches, about 120 pounds. His arms are bowed from childhood labor. His lower back and buttocks are scarred with burns from the torturer’s fire. The skin over his pubis bears a puncture scar from the hook used to hold him in place over the fire. His ankles are scarred by shackles, from which he was hung upside down in solitary confinement. His right middle finger is cut off at the first knuckle, a guard’s punishment for dropping a sewing machine in a camp garment factory. His shins, from ankle to knee on both legs, are mutilated and scarred by burns from the electrified barbed-wire fence that failed to keep him inside Camp 14.
Shin is roughly the same age as Kim Jong Un, the chubby third son of Kim Jong Il who took over as leader after his father’s death in 2011.
Shin was born a slave and raised behind a high-voltage barbed-wire fence. His mother beat him, and he viewed her as a competitor for food. His father, who was allowed by guards to sleep with his mother just five nights a year, ignored him. His older brother was a stranger. Children in the camp were untrustworthy and abusive. Before he learned anything else, Shin learned to survive by snitching on all of them.
Love and mercy and family were words without meaning.
Read more. [Image: AP]
A chilling account of the only person born into a North Korean prison camp and escape. It’ll leave you speechless.
It could be nothing more than a rumor, but word on China’s Twitter equivalent, Weibo, is that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has died in a possible coup.
The news, which would be a huge game-changer if true, has started to seep into Twitter, with MIT journalism instructor Seth Mnookin tweeting, “Rumor of assassination also floating around; no confirmation RT @KSHartnett Hearing word of #NorthKorea coup. Kim Jong Un on the run.” The news apparently spreading among traders, as journalist Harry Cole reports. But everybody with half a brain is treating the rumor with a good deal of suspicion. Read more.