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Jokes about Kim Jong Un Are No Laughing Matter


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) poses with officers and sailors of Korean People's Army in Pyongyang June 16, 2014.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) poses with officers and sailors of Korean People's Army in Pyongyang June 16, 2014.

Many Americans enjoy making jokes about political leaders in the United States. Even those leaders often laugh about themselves.

But North Koreans see such humor differently. They say jokes about their Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un, threaten their country.

For example, last April North Korean officials visited a hair cutting shop in London. The officials objected to a picture in the shop. The picture showed Kim Jong Un, who has a lot of hair on top of his head and very little on the sides. Words below the picture asked: “Bad hair day?”

Earlier in July North Korean officials protested a new movie about North Korea. Ja Song Nam is North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations. He asked the U.N. to block the humor movie “The Interview.” The film is about two men who plan to kill Mr. Kim.

Mr. Ja said the movie supported terrorism and was an act of war.

This week, North Korean officials asked China to stop spreading an Internet video that makes jokes about Mr. Kim. One part of the video shows U.S. President Barack Obama striking Mr. Kim.

A report about the video appeared in a North Korea newspaper. The report said the video questions Mr. Kim’s leadership power.

North Korea experts said they are not surprised by North Koreans’ anger about the jokes.

Katharine H.S. Moon leads the Korea Studies office at The Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. She said laughing about their leaders or country is not part of the North Korean culture.

She said, North Koreans consider Mr. Kim and his family gods. So, laughing about them is very insulting.

Ms. Moon said she did not believe North Korea’s claims that an American comedy movie would make people want to kill Mr. Kim.

But, Ms. Moon said officials are right to be worried about protecting Mr. Kim’s power. He is young and does not have much experience or friendships with foreign leaders.

She said he has to earn the respect and trust of the older military and Korean Worker’s Party leaders.

Ms. Moon said the Chinese video is especially troubling to North Korean officials. China has been friendly to North Korea. But recently each country has shown distrust of the other.

Recently China has permitted anti-Kim and anti-North Korea expressions in the media. And North Korea has criticized China for restricting oil and behaving in a friendly way to the South Korean president.

Another reason for North Korean anger about the jokes could simply be because Mr. Kim is not sure of himself.

I’m Anna Matteo.

This story is based on a report from Matthew Hilburn.

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