This Is What Propaganda Looks Like: the Kim Jong Un Show

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I don’t speak Korean. But you don’t really need to understand it to figure out what’s going on in this North Korean “documentary” eulogizing the new top man in Pyongyang, Kim Jong Un. In fact, given the grating style of its female narrator — who rapturously quivers and exclaims through the hour-long segment like a particularly deranged high priestess (or a North Korean who really just has no choice) — it’s probably best watched on mute.

Aired soon after the rotund twenty-something assumed power following the December death of his father, Kim Jong Il, the film is a vintage propaganda piece, building the youngest Kim’s mythic status alongside that of both his deceased dad and grandfather, Kim Il Sung, who Kim Jong Un apparently resembles (jowls and all). To prove the point, we see the new Dear Leader astride a grey warhorse, cutting the same commie Napoleon pose for which the totalitarian state’s founder is often remembered.

As had to be expected, there’s a fair amount of Kim strutting before massed ranks of his subjects as they vociferously (read: compelled on command) clap and wave. Much of the cult surrounding the Kim dynasty draws its emotive strength from the family’s alleged devotion to the North Korean military, and here we see the youngest Kim, like his predecessors, calling upon the troops, gesticulating at warships, barking at various party hacks and medal-arrayed officials, inspecting guns, and generally looking at things. In a country where the Kims represent the totality of the state, they have to seem indefatigable, ubiquitous and omniscient. This myth-making reaches its height of farce at the 47th minute when the double-chinned Kim giddily pads around an amusement park. It’s a surreal spectacle and one more slight to a famine-ravaged, poverty-wracked, repressed North Korean population, yearning to break free of this family’s monstrous tyranny.