You read the news (or know someone who does), so you're up to date on how Sony has pulled the plug on The Interview, the Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy about journalists who try to kill North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. The decision not to show the movie in theaters came after threats of violence.
And you proably know that Paramount has forbidden theaters to show copies of Team America: World Police, the 2004 puppet epic created by South Park's Trey Parker and Matt Stone. In its climax (its dramatic climax, that is, not the eyeball-shredding puppet sex scene) Team America reveals that Kim Jong-un's father, Kim Jong-il, is actually a cockroach from outer space.
Reason TV has long taken an interest in North Korea, which is perhaps the purest distillation of a totalitarian insanity ever made flesh. It is easy—and important—to make fun of the People's Republic and its bizarre dogmas and doctrines (including the belief that the country's rulers are not simply picked by god but are divine in their own right) and we've done that. But it is also important not to allow the comic-opera elements to distract from one of the most repressive regimes that has ever disgraced the planet.
With movies about North Korea being yanked like the teeth of North Korean torture victims, here are a series of Reason TV videos that mock, explore, and expose various dimensions of the Hermit Kingdom.
Shin Dong-hyuk was born inside Kaechon #14, one of the world's harshest labor camps. His parents were political prisoners, declared enemies of the state for having committed minor offenses against the North Korean regime. Shin was routinely subjected to torture and knew nothing of the outside world until his escape at the age of 23.
Today he is on a mission to tell the world his story. And to remind us of the estimated 200,000 other forced laborers currently languishing under the regime of Kim Jong-un.
Produced by Todd Krainin.
Kim Jong Il, who was the supreme leader of North Korea until his death in 2011, was a leading authority on gymnastics, cinema, literature, war, cooking, and the arts. He wrote 1,400 works when he was in college, including a senior thesis that was an achievement comparable to Columbus' discovery of America. He revolutionized the opera, personally discovered that Paleolithic man originated on the Korean Peninsula, and came up with a theory of art that was as impactful on modern culture as the Copernican Revolution. Why did the supreme leader always wear sunglasses? That's because his eyes were constantly bloodshot from staying up all night figuring out ways to help his country.
These are details from celebrity ghostwriter (and former editor of Overheard in New York) Michael Malice's new book Dear Reader: The Unauthorized Autobiography of Kim Jong Il, a strange, tragic, and humorous first-person account of the supreme leader's life. On March 18, 2014, at an event held at New York City's Museum of Sex and sponsored by the Reason Foundation, The New York Times columnist John Tierney sat down with Malice to discuss the book.
On a lighter note, here's a video that showcase bizarre footage from a North Korean children festival in light of American domestic politics:
Obama Kids: Sing for Change (Pyongyang Remix), October 1, 2008
For more Reason coverage of North Korea, go here.