Boing Boing 

North Korean defectors undermine totalitarianism with smuggled pirate sitcoms


In an amazing, long, in-depth investigative piece, Wired's Andy Greenberg recounts the story of North Korean dissidents who have escaped, but who mastermind ambitious smuggling efforts that send thousands of USB sticks and SD cards over the border stuffed with pirate media:

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Twitterbot generates North Korean patriotic slogans with Markov chains


The 300 weird patriotic slogans that North Korea released last week had the stilted feel of machine-generated text.

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Obama administration: North Koreans probably not responsible for Sony Hack, but hey, let's sanction them anyway

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) uses a pair of binoculars to look towards the South during his visit to the Jangjae Islet Defence Detachment and Mu Islet Hero Defence Detachment on the front, near the border with South Korea, southwest of Pyongyang March 7, 2013 in this picture released by the North's official KCNA news agency in Pyongyang.


North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) uses a pair of binoculars to look towards the South during his visit to the Jangjae Islet Defence Detachment and Mu Islet Hero Defence Detachment on the front, near the border with South Korea, southwest of Pyongyang March 7, 2013 in this picture released by the North's official KCNA news agency in Pyongyang.

In what looks to many in the information security community like a bizarre face-saving gesture with little basis in reality, the Obama administration today announced new sanctions on 10 senior North Korean officials and several organizations.

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Watch the Kim Jong Un death scene that led to the untimely death of 'The Interview'

screenshot-8

This Reddit thread contains a bunch of mirrors.

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HOWTO make a low-poly Kim Jong Un Hallowe'en head


Tim writes, "I made a giant wearable low-polygon Kim Jong Un head for Halloween, and you should too!"

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North Korea files UN complaint over James Franco/Seth Rogen film

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) visits the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun. KCNA, July 8, 2014.


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) visits the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun. KCNA, July 8, 2014.

The US-government funded despicable imperialist pigdog news agency Voice of America today reports that North Korea has filed a formal complaint to the United Nations over "The Interview," a James Franco/Seth Rogen comedy about an attempt to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

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North Korea Condemns Imperialist Dwarf Seth Rogen

Seems like a good moment to remind you that there are an infinite number of North Korean press releases and that no-one is left undenounced. Previously.

North Korea threatens "merciless" war against the US over Seth Rogen movie

North Korea has threatened "merciless" war against the USA if a James Franco and Seth Rogen comedy called "The Interview" is released. The movie involves a plot to assassinate North Korean hereditary dictator Kim Jong-un. A North Korean state spokesman called the movie an "act of war" and a "blatant act of terrorism" and "reckless US provocative insanity." The spokesman called the film's director a "gangster filmmaker" and said that North Koreans had greeted the production with "a gust of hatred and rage."

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North Korean science fiction and the Maoist road to Mars


Jeff sez, "The Journal of Asian Studies has two science fiction-related essays: a full-length study that focuses on North Korean sci-fi stories of the 1950s and 1960s, which were intended for children and influenced by Soviet works of the time; it's paired with a shorter comment that explores parallels between texts Zur analyzes and SF produced in Mao era China."

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North Korean students must now all wear Kim Jong Un's "Chinese smuggler" haircut


A disturbing new turn in the North Korean Official Haircut Story: men male students can no longer choose from 18 approved haircuts and must henceforth all sport the same haircut as Kim Jong Un. This haircut is locally known as the "Chinese smuggler haircut."

Update: The BBC has since updated its story: the haircut mandate applies only to students, not all men.

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Official haircuts of North Korea

There are 28 official state-approved haircuts in North Korea, and there is renewed emphasis on the official coiffure parameters under its new leader, Kim Jong Un. Ironically, Kim's own haircut is not on the official list.

Meth offered 'as casually as a cup of tea' in North Korea

There's not much stigma attached to meth use in harsh North Korea, writes Los Angeles Times reporter Barbara Demick, interviewing North Koreans in China.

Some take it to treat colds or boost their energy; students take it to work late. The drug also helps curb appetites in a country where food is scarce. It is offered up as casually as a cup of tea, North Koreans say. "If you go to somebody's house it is a polite way to greet somebody by offering them a sniff," said Lee Saera, 43, of Hoeryong, also interviewed in China. "It is like drinking coffee when you're sleepy, but ice is so much better."

More: LA Times.

Kim Jong Un laughing alone on ski-lift


Rodong Sinmun, courtesy photo

North Korea faxes south to notify it that attack will occur "without notice"

I'll have to add "repeated extra-large provocations" to the North Korea Press Release Generator. [Fox News]

The silent soccer matches of North Korea

North Korea's coach, Kim Jong-Hun, received tactical advice during matches from Kim Jong-Il himself using mobile phones that are not visible to the naked eye. [Tim Hartley / BBC]

Kim Jong Un wants Obama to Call Him Maybe, says new bestie Dennis Rodman after Vice mag North Korea junket

From "North Korea Has a Friend in Dennis Rodman and VICE." Not 'shopped; you can tell by the pixels.

Argo 2.0? Former NBA star and noted weirdo Dennis Rodman told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos today that he returned from a trip to North Korea arranged by VICE with a message for President Obama from Kim Jong Un:

“He wants Obama to do one thing: Call him,” Rodman told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on “This Week.” “He said, ‘If you can, Dennis – I don’t want [to] do war. I don’t want to do war.’ He said that to me.”

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North Korea uses western video game music in propaganda

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea used Jeremy Soule's theme tune from The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion in a fiery propaganda video. [Kotaku] Previously: Modern Warfare 3 clips used in NK propaganda.

U.S. bombed in North Korean propaganda video

Please enjoy this North Korean propaganda video, which features dreams of happiness and space travel, a stirring instrumental rendition of We Are The World, and America engulfed in flames. [Video link: LiveLeak]

Google adds North Korean death-camps to maps


Google Maps has added notorious, secretive North Korean prison camps to its maps of the country. The data is gleaned from user contributions, including a first-person account of Shin Dong-Hyuk, who escaped from Camp 14, a death camp where he was born and raised.

Called Map Maker, Google’s information for the country’s layout comes primarily from visitors and from former citizens who defected, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The mapping idea stemmed in part from a 28-year-old South Korean who tried to use Google maps on a trip to Laos four years ago, but found it unhelpful, at best. He ultimately helped devise the Google map application for North Korea.

“I thought if I could fill in information on North Korea, it might be useful in an emergency or tragedy if Google can provide a map for aid agencies,” the South Korean told the Wall Street Journal.

Google maps North Korea, including prison camps [Cheryl K. Chumley/Washington Times] (via /.)

Photos of a simpler time ... in North Korea

Retro DPRK is a blog that collects images of North Korea from the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Getting into North Korea from the United States and Western Europe is not easy today. But up until the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was even more difficult. If you weren't also from a Communist country, chances were good that you weren't going to get even a glimpse of the place.

But, at the same time, North Korea was also promoting itself through propaganda, and as a tourist destination for citizens of the USSR. Christopher Graper — who leads tours into North Korea today from Canada — has scanned scenes from postcards and tourism brochures — rare peeks into the little-documented history of a secretive country.

The collection blends familiar scenes that wouldn't look terribly different from American advertisements of the same era with an amusingly odd sensibility (who wouldn't want a whole book of postcards documenting every detail of Pyongyang's new gymnasium?) and quietly disconcerting scenes like the one above, where a seaside resort town appears eerily empty — like a theme park before opening time.

Retro DPRK

Thanks for pointing me toward this, Gidjlet!

Two things that would thaw Walt Disney with the heat of his own rage

What you are about to see is a bunch of stultifyingly counterfeit Disney characters performing at a concert where Dear Leader, Jr. of North Korea, Kim Jung Un, was in attendance. I'm wondering if he was, perhaps, slightly underwhelmed.

Bonus: right smack in the center of an "Oh SNAP" bullseye. The following is an image of several "rejected" designs for Mickey Mouse, a most beloved creation of Walt Disney because he'd always considered the happy little rodent a reflection of himself. Warning: one of these Mickeys has a penis.

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WIPO caught secretly funneling cash to North Korea to buy patent database computers


A trusted insider source writes, "A real blockbuster of bizarre at WIPO [ed: The World Intellectual Trade Organization, the UN body responsible for copyright and patent treaties]. It seems that [WIPO director general] Francis Gurry has personally approved payment for new computer equipment to go to North Korea to modernise their patent office, and that WIPO have tried to do it by going around the UN office in South Korea designed to ensure that UN sanctions are not broken. The only thing that stopped this transaction taking place was that the Bank of America was prevented from transferring WIPO's money to China. The bizarre bit is that WIPO is trying to argue that what they were doing is inherently legal because it is development assistance. Development assistance, in this case, designed to help a rogue state violate patent protection, is what it looks like. The US and a few other countries are objecting to this, for obvious reasons, but it seems to me this is an example of WIPO doing the opposite of what is in the interest of patent holders and really everyone else as well."

In that letter, also obtained by Fox News, Kateb declared that so far as WIPO staffers could tell, WIPO’s member states “had not been consulted and have no knowledge of this project. Thus, they were not given an opportunity to review or object to it.” The project, Kateb said, “was allegedly approved directly by the director general.”

Gurry denied at the meeting with diplomats that WIPO’s technology transfer violated any international sanctions efforts. He subsequently circulated to the attending ambassadors a WIPO legal memorandum -- written by the office of WIPO legal counsel Edward Kwakwa -- which claimed that the computer exports were “part of WIPO’s technical assistance program,” which “does not violate any U.N. Security Council sanctions.”

The memo acknowledged that payment for the computers had been blocked by U.S. sanctions laws “enacted in part to implement” the binding U.N. sanctions. But it also declared that “WIPO, as an international organization, is not bound by the U.S. national law in this matter” and was still looking for ways to pay for the shipment.

EXCLUSIVE: Cash for computers: Is the U.N. busting its own sanctions in North Korea?

Kim Jong-Un got a Gun

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un aims a rifle at the Sporting Bullet Factory, built in 1996 at the order of the North's late leader Kim Jong-il. The factory produces "sporting bullets" for developing military sports. Its exact location is undisclosed. Undated picture released by the North's KCNA news agency in Pyongyang, on February 23, 2012. Wonder what sort of computers those are, and what they're running? (REUTERS/KCNA)

North Korean party rock anthem

Ain't no party like a Pyongyang party, 'cause a Pyongyang party is ABSOLUTELY MANDATORY. Perhaps all those synchronized marching demonstrations for Kim Jong-Il were because he just wanted to get down.

[Video Link] via Submitterator. Thanks letterj and Dannel!

North Korean diplomacy, with a side of slaw

As Dean told you this morning, Kim Jong-Il is dead. (Side note: This has been one of those great moments for me, where I learned about a news story from Facebook first, at least a good 10-15 minutes before stories started popping up on Google News last night. Shout-out for that goes to Kyle Whitmire, the new media editor and main political writer at WELD, a Birmingham, Alabama, based weekly.)

With that news in mind, I'd like to take a moment to remember one the weirder aspects of North Korean politics under Kim Jong-Il's reign. During the Clinton administration, and to a lesser extent, under Bush as well, one of the primary ways the United States conducted diplomacy with North Korea was through Bobby Egan, owner of a barbecue joint in Hackensack, New Jersey. No, really. Here's an excerpt from a 2006 NPR story on Bobby Egan:

... a few customers know that Bobby Egan is North Korea's man in the U.S. Not that Egan hides it - he'll tell anyone how he tries to help North Korea. He's become a sort of unofficial ambassador. He says he's in contact with government officials, though he declines to be specific. Egan says that twice the North Korean regime authorized him to offer a full end to their nuclear programs in exchange for money and diplomatic relations with the United States.

He says that back in the Clinton years, he used to have phone conversations with presidential advisers while he was at Cubby's register, taking orders. But he says, he does a lot more than just negotiate for North Korea.

Mr. EGAN: I'm a trusted friend. I have access to the country. You know, so there's a lot of difference. We're friends, but whichever role as a friend, you're a friend. You know, there's a lot of roles friends play. You know, not just one role and too specific. We're friends, which is multifaceted.

DAVIDSON: Egan hosts trips. He says he's taken several prominent U.S. politicians to the country, although he says most of them don't want their names made public. He was the official host for the North Korean team at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and, he likes to hint, that he often plays a more covert role.

Mr. EGAN: Well, I don't want to get into specific details at this time because I'm still right now on a, you know, an operation mode with North Korea.

Thanks to the Slacktivist blog for reminding me of this story!

Kim Jong-Il is dead

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il has died, CNN reports. And with him dies a great novelty Tumblog.

I think I just heard every venture capital firm fire up their private jets.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il dead, state TV reports - CNN

Photos from North Korea's Mass Games


Sam Gellman's tourist photos from North Korea's Mass Games are wonderful and weird studies in repetition at scale, where all sorts of pomp and spectacle are performed with thousands of identically dressed performers in close-order drill, which echoes the enormous housing blocks and all the other mass-scale motifs of Stalinist bureaucracy.

(via Kottke)