Kim Jong-un has the best PR team in the world

The North Korean leader rules over the most brutal dictatorship in the world, yet all the West does is laugh at him

Share

A couple of days ago footage of Kim Jong-un limping onto a stage emerged. It quickly came through to news sites, who snapped it up as the latest bizarre offering from a country social media editors have grown to love.

Chances are the first thing most people associate with North Korea isn’t it’s horrific human rights record but it’s comical and portly leader, Kim Jong-un.

North Korea has become a national circus for us in the West, and a gold-mine for bizarre news stories. In recent months we’ve seen cheerleaders sent as a peace gesture; Kim on a submarine; Kim inspecting the troops; Kim’s number two wishing the Queen happy birthday; and the north Korean government labelling Seth Rogan a “gangsta filmmaker” and his and James Franco’s film The Interview “a wanton act of terror”.

The result is a country shadowed by a farcical cut-out. It’s easy to push the darker elements of the regime to the back of our minds because - look! - Kim’s haircut is now mandatory for all medical students.

The accuracy of the claims later came into question, but it was too late. We were already laughing. It proved even further that the West's perception of the regime has become inseparable to its leader, when it should be focused on the realities of Kim Jong-Un’s brutal dictatorship.

In February a UN Commission of Inquiry on human rights in the country stated that “the gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world”.

Michael Kirby, who led the inquiry, compared the brutality of the regime to that of the Nazis. But in early March a video emerged of Jong-un laughing, surrounded by female pilots. He resembled a caricature of a dictator, and one that could be easily dismissed.

It’s estimated there are between 80,000-120,000 political prisoners detained in four camps across North Korea, with thousands more imprisoned elsewhere. Witnesses testified to horrendous beatings, starvation and abuse. Children killed by dogs set upon their by guards too indoctrinated to care, mothers forced to drown their babies because of a belief in racial purity, and rape used as a torture emerged from the inquiry. Generations of a family can disappear into these camps, never to be heard from.

Outside the camps, there are widespread food shortages - the government itself acknowledges 27 per cent of all babies are born stunted through malnutrition, yet refuses relief organisations access. Food is prioritised for those deemed “useful” at the expense of “expendable” groups. Military spending is prioritised, with the north conducting three military tests between 2006 and 2013.

Freedom of thought and movement are non-existent, with abduction a realistic worry - the inquiry estimated nearly 200,000 people (and children) were taken from neighbouring countries. North Koreans who do leave for China are often forcibly returned.

It’s a golden age for information, but also for misinformation. The infantile rumours can run away with themselves, collecting an authority on the web which is hard to ever fully dispel. It creates a pleasant chimera, highlighting the ridiculous at the expense of the horrendous. It’s easier to laugh at something (and more enjoyable too) than consider the implications behind it.

The latest clip of Jung-un limping is especially instructive. His grandfather and father both guarded their image carefully, seeking to constantly to best present themselves - why is the latest Kim not following their traditions? Experts suggest Jong-un may be nothing more than a figurehead, allowed to remain only as a justification for the regime’s continuation while his father’s lackeys enjoy their power.

Whoever is in charge, we need to stop laughing. Even if Jong-un isn’t pulling the strings, we are allowing ourselves to be puppets amused by a horrendous regime whose brutality we cannot even begin to comprehend. 

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: A widow’s tale with an unexpected twist

John Rentoul
 

For all his faults, Russell Brand is utterly sincere, something politicians should emulate

Janet Street-Porter
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss