The funny thing is that the early reviews of the movie were pretty lukewarm, not just from critics but from regular test audiences. Now after this controversy, people are hailing it as the greatest comedy of our generation.
It’s also caused a resurgence of those stupid NORTH KOREA BEST KOREA memes. That’s just annoying, though.
What makes me angry is that by mocking North Korea, the mockers are reinforcing the DPRK’s state propaganda. If you think the North Korean government is stupid or you see them as toothless cartoon villains, then you’ve already been indoctrinated by it. Hook, line, and sinker. Without getting too much into my personal life, I have close ties with people deeply involved in North Korea. I’ve befriended DPRK defectors and people who have dedicated their lives to dismantling the Kim regime.
North Korea is the only Orwellian police state in the world and it has been that way for almost 70 years. Other nations have tried to maintain a government like the DPRK’s in the modern world and failed. The USSR broke apart. Fascist Italy fell. Nazi Germany fell. Gaddafi was ousted and killed.
Yet the DPRK endures. People don’t rebel, other countries don’t invade them, and they still receive concessions from the international community even as they continue developing their nuclear program. Stupid governments can’t keep 24.9 million people drinking the Kool Aid and force exponentially more powerful countries into bargaining positions.
A large part of why North Korea endures is because they’ve carefully engineered how they want to appear to the West. Horrific things are happening there right now. Some of my friends have been sent to juvenile concentration camps where kids were beaten and raped by the guards. Camps where kids had their feet cut off for attempting to escape. Friends who saw a fresh corpse on the street every day they walked home from school, left to starve to death on the sidewalk because of the Great Famine. Friends who were forced to eat bark to survive, friends who witnessed cannibalism.
There is so much information out there about how horrible and dangerous North Korea is but the international community doesn’t receive pressure from their constituents to do anything about it because everyone views North Korea as a joke. That is a very intentional, calculated move by the DPRK government. They are fully aware of how ridiculous and empty their threats sound. Those statements are nothing but propaganda fed to the West.
B.R. Myers is one of the world’s foremost scholars of North Korea and he pointed out that North Korea is not very socialist or communist. In fact, if you read the North Korean constitution, you won’t find a single mention of socialism or communism. But they are very Confucian, and a lot of what they talk about in their constitution is aligned with Confucian principles. That also goes for their foreign policy. It’s straight out of the Art of War. To quote Sun Tzu:
“If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.”
And that’s exactly what North Korea does. They know they can’t possibly withstand a military invasion from a first world power, but at the same time, they can’t risk a policy of close contact because it would compromise the internal propaganda they minister to their citizens.
So they make ridiculous threats they can’t possibly carry out. They get angry about comedy movies. They play the role of the tiny man with a huge chip on his shoulder, and the international community responds accordingly. The unspeakable atrocities North Korea is committing against its citizens is overshadowed by the global public perceiving North Korea as a cartoon villain. And when North Korea does do something legitimately dangerous like missile tests in Japanese waters or firing upon submarines, it is without warning, provocation, grandstanding, or boasting. Nothing came of the RKS Cheonan attack because there was no hard evidence that linked it back to the DPRK. Do you think an inept government can pull that off?
This is how they control their public image. It’s how they make it clear they are not to be fucked with when they want to be taken seriously, but when they need to relieve international pressure off themselves, they start talking like Darth Vader, and the laughs and mocking that follow work to North Korea’s benefit.
Did you know they’re also heavily involved in organized crime? You probably haven’t and you’ll never hear North Korea boasting about it, even though their criminal enterprises are a legitimate threat that causes actual damage overseas. They want to divert people’s attention away from things like Room 39 so they make wild threats they cannot possibly carry out and the international media eats it up. Room 39 is a multibillion dollar criminal enterprise but we have little information about it. People struggle to accept that the DPRK can run operations like this because of the misguided belief that the DPRK is run by boneheads.
Look at what the response has been like for their threats about The Interview. The DPRK knows damn well they can’t bomb any American movie theaters. But they used their grand, puffed up threats as propaganda. And it isn’t the first time they’ve indoctrinated the West with idle threats.
What’s the response to North Korean news on any popular media website? North Korea Best Korea! ROR! You are now banned from r/pyongyang! Any discussions about the concentration camps or human rights abuses are completely drowned out by stupid memes, stupid memes which exist because North Korea presented itself as an evil empire out of a sci-fi book and the West ate it up. North Korea is already associated with vapid memes in the eyes of young westerners. Now it’ll be associated with a slightly above average comedy movie and hammy threats, playing right into the belief that North Korea like a real-life version of Mordor or the Galactic Empire.
When you hear about the Galactic Empire killing trillions of people in Star Wars, you don’t feel anything because it’s exaggerated fiction. On a subconscious level, it’s easy to feel ambivalent towards millions of people being tortured, raped, and starved on a daily basis when you view the oppressing power in the same level of ridiculousness as Darth Vader.
But Kim Jong Un is not Emperor Palpatine. The Workers’ Party are not Sith Lords. They are completely sane, flesh-and-blood men and women no different from me or you who torture and imprison regular people.
Real people. People who are fathers, daughters, uncles, friends. Imagine if your family lived in a country where one misstep you make could land you and your children in the gulag. If you have daughters, you can expect them to be gang raped by guards. You can expect them to have forced abortions for carrying mixed children. If you have a relative that has special needs, expect them to be executed for polluting the gene pool.
When you step back and start deprogramming yourself from the media conditioning that North Korea has been feeding you, it’s not so easy to be so flippant about North Korea, is it? Suddenly it becomes as disturbing as joking about the deaths of Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, or creating memes out of the two NYPD officers who were murdered in cold blood simply for being in uniform. Picture that on a scale magnified by millions and perpetuated every single day.
So the fact that the world is congratulating itself for being so witty and edgy for mocking North Korea is what made me angry this week. I’ve seen more outrage against North Korea for bullying Sony into pulling this movie than I have when the UN released its report on North Korean concentration camps.
If the world was able to see North Korea soberly as the most brutal dictatorship in the world, it wouldn’t be such a pain in the ass convincing people to get involved. That’s harder to do now that everyone is lapping up the DPRK’s Kool Aid without realizing.
Why is this the issue Reddit wants to have protests over?
The real way to stick it to North Korea would be to start organizing mass donations to nonprofits dedicated to ending it, making their human rights abuses viral, and starting an online movement that pressure world leaders into breaking the Kim regime. That would actually scare the shit out of the DPRK.
The Interview is out and millions are spending cash on watching it.
Posting for awareness. Also, reminder from real life to fiction, if there is an evil dictatorship in your novel they aren’t stupid. No one who convinces hundreds of thousands to millions of people to follow and die in their name is an idiot. Be afraid of savvy intelligent people, they’re scary.