Pyongyang vowing to incinerate the US is nothing new – such threats have been issued in the past in response to US military exercises with South Korea, say, or to new US economic sanctions targeting the rogue nuclear state and human-rights violator extraordinaire.
But this time the fang-baring riposte follows something that must be a lot scarier to Mr. Kim than sanctions or military exercises – namely a Hollywood comedy in which the baby-faced tyrant is the subject of a CIA assassination plot.
Apparently Kim sees nothing funny about a plot line that has a bumbling American talk-show host and his producer, played by James Franco and Seth Rogen, accepting a CIA proposal to turn their trip to North Korea to interview Kim into a hit, so to speak.
The movie, titled “The Interview,” isn’t set to debut on world screens until this fall. But a trailer for the film has been posted on Youtube, prompting a gush of invective from the Pyongyang regime.
Calling the movie “the most blatant act of terrorism and war [that] will absolutely not be tolerated,” the North Korean government said in a statement that “if the US administration allows and defends the showing of the film, a merciless countermeasure will be taken.”
According to the statement, the US “provocation” from a “gangster filmmaker” is prompting a “gust of hatred and rage” toward the US from the North Korean people and the country’s military. The statement did not explain how the North Koreans, whom human-rights organizations consider to be among the world’s least-free people and who are prohibited from accessing the Internet, got wind of the offending movie.
Mr. Rogen, who is also a director of the film, seemed eager to milk the unreleased movie’s early notoriety, feigning shock at the uproar in a tweet. “People don’t usually wanna kill me for one of my movies until after they’ve paid 12 bucks for it,” he said.
Rogen and Mr. Franco are actually carrying on a rich tradition of American black humor involving the despotic and over-the-top-cruel Kim regime, which has ruled since the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea’s founding after World War II.
Mr. Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il, was portrayed as a waiter in the NBC TV show “Thirty Rock” – the man known simply as “Dear Leader” in North Korea claiming to be “the greatest waiter of all time” on the show. Before that, the movie “Team America World Police” featured a singing Kim Jong-il lamenting his lonely perch atop a dictatorship.
The young Kim, who is married to a North Korean pop singer, practically begged to be lampooned for his high-profile courting of former NBA player Denis Rodman, who has made several trips to North Korea and even recruited several of his old NBA chums to go to Pyongyang to play basketball for the Supreme Leader.
Indeed, it may be the implications of “The Interview” for a Kim initiative like the Rodman friendship that infuriated the North Korean leader most of all. If the CIA can convince a talk show team to undertake an assassination, Kim might have to think twice before reaching out to another American celebrity.