Kim Jong-il

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I’ve read some titles from the Financial Times “Summer Books 2015” list, including Yuval Noah Harari’s SapiensEvan Osnos’ Age of Ambition and Martin Ford’s Rise of the Robots, all of which are wonderful–in fact, Harari’s title is the best book I’ve read this year, period. Here are several more suggestions from FT which sound great:

Station Eleven (Emily St. John Mandel) is an apocalyptic novel about a world in which almost everyone has died in a flu pandemic, and clans roam the earth killing at random. It could hardly sound less promising. And yet Emily St John Mandel’s fourth novel is different partly because she skips over the apocalypse itself — all the action takes place just before or 20 years afterwards — and because it is less about the survival of the human race than the survival of Shakespeare. The book has been on literary shortlists and won prizes and been much praised for its big themes: culture, memory, loss. Yet it works just as well at a less lofty level, as a beautifully written, compulsive read.

A Kim Jong-Il Production (Paul Fischer) The story of how the late North Korean dictator kidnapped South Korean cinema’s golden couple, the director Shin Sang-ok and his actress wife Choi Eun-hee, and put them to work building a film industry in the North. At once a gripping personal narrative and an insight into the cruelty and madness of North Korea.

The Vital Question: Why is Life the Way It Is? (Nick Lane) Biochemist Lane offers a scintillating synthesis of a new theory of life, emphasising the interplay between energy and evolution. He shows how simple microbes, which monopolised Earth for the first 2bn years, took the momentous step towards becoming the “eukaryotic” cells that then evolved into animals, plants, fungi and protozoa.•

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When you live in North Korea, even China looks like freedom.

The Asahi Shimbun has an interview with a 31-year-old woman who defected from the late Kim Jong-il’s benighted nation in 2010, which provides a look into the clandestine country normally only visited by outsiders who happen to be Dennis Rodman or professional wrestlers. (Dan Greene of Sports Illustrated recently published an oral history of a 1995 North Korean wrestling tour.) There’s no horrific revelation, just a person awakened to the delusion she’d always lived within, a condition that can happen to a citizen of any country but is pretty much mandatory in North Korea. An excerpt:


What was ideology education like?


Among newspapers, there was the Rodong Sinmun for party members, another one read by the officers of labor federations and another one for young people. All newspapers had a regular section and a supplement.

The regular section ran stories about Supreme Leader Kim Jong Il visiting a local area to give instructions. The supplement contained information about daily life, such as the extent to which a spinning factory approached its production quota. The supplement also carried comics that said, “This is how crafty and bad the United States, South Korea and Japan are.” But the comics always ended up with North Korea winning.


Was there any change after Kim Jong Un took over as national leader?


I have heard that two to three layers of barbed wire were laid along the border with China. There were also moves to force people to appear at their workplace as well as an examination of family registers by the party. Moreover, instead of money, the party began collecting beans, sesame seeds, peanuts and sunflower seeds. An organized attempt was also made to stamp out reactionary elements in society with the creation of an “anti-socialism group.”


What kind of group was that?


The group consisted of members of the State Security Ministry (in charge of the secret police), the People’s Security Ministry (in charge of the regular police) and prosecutors.

Group members would walk around with neighborhood group leaders, and if a member said, “I want to enter that home,” they were able to conduct a search without a warrant. If the search turned up U.S. dollars, Chinese yuan or CDs, it was confiscated unconditionally.

Such crackdowns occurred even while we were doing business. But no problems arose as long as we gave them bribes, such as a few cartons of cigarettes.

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Artists have often been oppressed by authoritarian regimes, their art grinded to a halt by a disapproving dictator, some even incarcerated for their creations. But it is odd, even by the very promiscuous standards of North Korea’s nuttiness, to kidnap filmmakers from other countries and force them into an artistic output. But Kim Jong-il has done just that, shanghaiing talent for his country’s film industry, a despot as Disney. From Stephen Evans at BBC:

It sounds more far-fetched than anything a filmmaker could invent – the story of how a director and a leading actress were kidnapped by North Korea and forced to make films for the state’s movie-mad leader, Kim Jong-il.

It seemed like a simple solution – North Korea needed skills. Other countries had those skills – so why not just kidnap the skilled workers?

In some cases, very skilled workers. In 1977, a top South Korean pianist was hired by a mysterious patron to give a private performance in an isolated villa outside Zagreb.

But he’d grown suspicious, spotting a North Korean aircraft at the airport and then hearing North Korean accents as he approached the house. He fled and escaped.

But South Korea’s most celebrated film director and his film-star wife were not so lucky. Shin Sang-ok and Choi Eun-hee were both snatched in Hong Kong. A similar ruse was used to that tried with the pianist – the lure of meeting in a remote house. The couple spent eight years in North Korea making films there before finally escaping.

The kidnap plot was hatched by Kim Jong-il who, before he succeeded his father as the country’s leader, was in charge of its film industry. He was a great film buff, an avid watcher of Hollywood movies – in particular, the first Rambo movie, anything with Elizabeth Taylor and the James Bond films which may have fed his appetite for covert operations.•

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Kim Jong-Il, a diminutive despot who refused to go away, much like Mike Bloomberg, just died–too young, too young–but he sadly lived a full life. When he wasn’t busy dictating, Kim always kept his iron hand in the country’s movie industry. From an insane Mental Floss story by Jessica Royer Ocken about how the Dear Leader “recruited” a star director:

“Long before his father’s death in 1994, Kim Jong Il played supervisor to the North Korean movie industry. As such, he made sure each production served double duty as both art form and propaganda-dispersion vehicle. Per his instructions, the nation’s cinematic output consisted of films illuminating themes such as North Korea’s fantastic military strength and what horrible people the Japanese are. It was the perfect job for a cinephile like Kim, whose personal movie collection reportedly features thousands of titles, including favorites Friday the 13thRambo, and anything starring Elizabeth Taylor or Sean Connery.

Despite Kim’s creative influence on the industry during the 1970s (when he served with the country’s Art and Culture Ministries) and the fact that he literally wrote the book on communist filmmaking (1973’s On the Art of the Cinema), North Korean movies continued to stink. Frustrated, Kim sought help by forcing 11 Japanese ‘cultural consultants’ into servitude during the late 1970s and early 1980s, only to have several die inconveniently on the job (some by their own hands). But coerced consulting can only get a film industry so far, and North Korea was still in search of its Orson Welles. Then, in 1978, respected South Korean director Shin Sang Ok suddenly found himself out of work after he angered his own country’s military dictator in a spat over censorship, and Kim Jong Il saw his chance to harness Shin’s artistry.

Kim promptly lured Shin’s ex-wife and close friend, actress Choi Eun Hee, to Hong Kong to ‘discuss a potential role.’ Instead, she was kidnapped.

A distraught Shin searched for Choi, but found himself similarly ambushed by Kim’s minions. After some ‘convincing’—by way of some chloroform and a rag—he was whisked away to North Korea. Choi lived in one of Kim’s palaces, and Shin—having been captured after an attempted escape only months after arriving—lived for four years in a prison for political dissidents, where he subsisted on grass, rice, and communist propaganda.”

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In “North Korea: Cinema of Dreams,” Al Jazeera English takes a look inside Pyongyang’s University of Cinematic and Dramatic Arts, the heart of Kim Jongil’s propaganda machine. The delusional “Dear Leader” is convinced that he’s a genius of cinema, theater and the circus. The circus part I believe.


Kim Jong-il lives in an insane, delusional bubble.

Mentally ill despot Kim Jong-il has pretty much ruined North Korea and its people with totalitarianism, human-rights violations and asinine economic policies. But he figures one good way to raise capital is to hold an international golf tournament. It would probably be wise for players to remain on the course at all times. A report from an Australian news service:

“The proposed tournament will be held in April at a golf course west of the capital Pyongyang, where the dictator Kim Jong-il supposedly sank 11 holes-in-one during a single round.

The cash-strapped communist state is inviting foreign amateur players to take part, charging them $1,000 for the five-day tour.

The golf course has not seen a round played since South Korea suspended cross-border tours nearly two years ago, after a North Korean soldier shot dead a Seoul housewife who had strayed into a restricted zone.”


I got this blazer on sale at Korvette's. Such savings you would not believe!

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: With the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., one was just as bad as the other. Both contributed to the destruction of world values. They talked about prosperity and wealth, but they killed more than 120 million individuals in the last 120 years and made many more homeless and injured.

Decoder: I’m the only person on the planet annoying enough to make Russia agree with Obama on anything. I mean, the Russians side with North Fucking Korea over the U.S. And Kim Jong-il is one suspicious Happy Meal from being Idi Amin.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: I am proudly announcing today that our scientists have gotten laser technology and will be manufacturing and providing the Iranian nation with new equipment.

Decoder: Lazer Zeppelin is upon us, and we will have the technology to produce Lazer Floyd within six months.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: Today many of our cities enjoy electricity, schools, health, activities in villages that were on the verge of destruction. I do not want to offer figures and statistics; you are all aware of them.

Decoder: You’re not all aware of them? Let me see if I have them on me. Oh, I know, I must have left them in the pocket of my other Members Only jacket. But they are so very awesome, I swear.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: I want to proudly announce that in the next few days we will have celebrations for electricity being transferred to all villages with more than 20 households.

Decoder: 1934, here we come!

The Tehran planetarium will be rocking. (Image by Dina Regine.)

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: Due to the blessings of God Almighty, today the convoy of the Iranian nation’s progress and prosperity is moving forward more swiftly and no power can resist the power of the Iranian nation.

Decoder: I am not going to stop talking until I get this whole fucking country blown up.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: With no doubt, the future belongs to the Iranian nation. Its enemies have no chance for victory.

Decoder: My penis, it is very small, so I talk really big. You should hear me in clubs and bars.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: Liberalism is trying to turn all nations into laborers to fill the pockets of capitalists. They want to make a modern slavery.

Decoder: Though Casual Fridays are really fun. And that new lady in HR doesn’t seem bad. I think her name is “Carol.”

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: The Allies’ victory in WWII was due to plundering the energy resources of the Middle East.

Decoder: I know even less about history than Sarah Palin.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: They want us to be kept weak and under the domination of atrocious dictators.

Decoder: No, not me, Mr. Funnypants. The other atrocious dictators.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: Hopefully, the Western wing of the hegemonic system has come to its end and this malicious system will hopefully collapse.

Decoder: Actually, it kind of already has, but they seem to still be way richer than us, which has me baffled.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: From a scientific view we have made the swiftest signs of progress in the world.

Decoder: Did I mention only six months to Lazer Floyd?

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: I am proud to announce that, the day before yesterday, we began to enrich the 20% fuel. The first convoy of 20%-enriched fuel was produced.

Decoder: It was very likely not produced, but again: little penis = big talk.

Thinks he's agreed to host an Aziz Ansari roast. (Image by Scott LaPierre.)

Mahmoud Ahmajinedad: They should know that our nation is so courageous that if we make a nuclear bomb, we will openly announce it.

Decoder: And Charles Barkley has agreed to do color commentary. No, seriously, he actually agreed to do it. He’s apparently crazy.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: We will never allow the West to dominate this region.

Decoder: And by oppressing my own people and creating such a sick society, I will make sure we never dominate this region, either.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: The Iranian youth have a right to seek justice and truth. They have a right to build their own future on the foundations of love, compassion and tranquility.

Decoder: And when they finally do, I am so totally fucked.

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Christopher Hitchens has used some space on Slate to put a spotlight on an interesting new book about the blighted nation of North Korea, run by the ridiculous and brutal overlord Kim Jong-il. In his article,A Nation of Racist Dwarfs,” Hitchens shares ideas from B.R. Myers’ book, The Cleanest Race: How North Americans See Themselves and Why It Matters. Myers looks not only at how arrogant delusions about racial superiority drive North Koreans but how it has stunted their growth–figuratively and literally. An excerpt from the Slate article:

Here are the two most shattering facts about North Korea. First, when viewed by satellite photography at night, it is an area of unrelieved darkness. Barely a scintilla of light is visible even in the capital city. Second, a North Korean is on average six inches shorter than a South Korean. You may care to imagine how much surplus value has been wrung out of such a slave, and for how long, in order to feed and sustain the militarized crime family that completely owns both the country and its people.

But this is what proves Myers right. Unlike previous racist dictatorships, the North Korean one has actually succeeded in producing a sort of new species. Starving and stunted dwarves, living in the dark, kept in perpetual ignorance and fear, brainwashed into the hatred of others, regimented and coerced and inculcated with a death cult: This horror show is in our future, and is so ghastly that our own darling leaders dare not face it and can only peep through their fingers at what is coming.•

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