Why Everything You Believe About North Korea Is A Lie
Boy, North Korea sure is a wacky place, right? It feels like every month or so, we learn some hilarious new thing about those crazy Kims and their whimsically brutal policies. Like this!
Should be a pretty easy law to enforce.
It's been trending on social media for the last few days, and soon it'll fade out of the limelight and into your brain's general "Facts about North Korea" file. Like the story about how Kim Jong-un executed his uncle with a pack of dogs:
Bad dogs. BAD DOGS!
Only that's not true. It turns out the "report" the story originated from was a satirical post on a Chinese social media website. I know, I was surprised China lets people have social media accounts too.And this story about Kim Jong-un forcing everyone to copy his hairdo?
Why would you even need to be forced? That guy has great hair.
Actual journalists have puzzled out that it's roughly 90 percent BS. Certain haircuts are prohibited in North Korea (and if I'm being completely honest, there are more than a few that should be prohibited here), but the whole country isn't being forced to copy their leader's 'do. The original article cited by outlets like The Daily Mail and Maxim ...
If we can't trust Maxim to deliver the news, then who?
... was the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo. The English translation of that article notes that short hair was mandated for men in the capitol only, partly to mimic Kim Jong-un, but also to get their hair ready for a giant upcoming festival. But skimming The Daily Mail or Maxim articles will leave you reading a completely different story:
This article by Radio Free Asia makes it clear that the hairdo laws are probably even narrower, likely only really effecting university students. RFA, by the way, is the origin of the "Kim Jong-un Bans Sarcasm" story. But you'll notice their title is much less "clickable":
Not even so much as a "You Won't Believe What Happened Next" at the end.
Radio Free Asia winds up being an origin point for many of these "wacky North Korea" stories. And you might get all conspiracy-minded about the fact that they're funded by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, a U.S. government agency. But RFA doesn't even have to report on anything inaccurate to generate bullshit headlines in mainstream sources. If you actually read the article, it's clear that the "ban" was just people being warned not to make jokes disparaging the Great Leader:
Sarcasm only came up because the joke of the day slowly meming its way through North Korean society involved saying "This is all America's fault" ironically when something went wrong. The government didn't ban sarcasm. It did what North Korea has always done: threaten to punish people for making fun of the Kim in charge.
But here's how popular British tabloid The Sun translated this:
The rare headline that makes less sense the more times you read it.
And then an army of other daily news sites followed suit, some adding to the legend with details completely absent from the original article:
Meanwhile, here's the only use of any form of the word "ironic" in the RFA article:
Once again, you've got a completely standard dictatorship behavior -- crushing all criticism with an iron fist -- turned into another hilarious article about the Kim family's long tradition of loopy decrees. We'd rather read that than "Totalitarian State Does What It Always Does" or "So What Are We Gonna Do About Those Nukes They Keep Firing?"
Robert Evans has a book! You can buy A Brief History Of Vice right now!
See how both Koreas are in a ridiculous arms race in 6 Hilarious Tactics North And South Korea Are Using To Fight, and get the inside perspective from a North Korean citizen in 5 Ways Growing Up in North Korea Is Crazier Than You Think.
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