Is It Moral to Find Humor in North Korea’s Bizarreness?


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I never really know how to answer this question. Among IR and foreign policy types, the DPRK is just as easily a punch-line over drinks after a long conference as it is a topic of that same conference. Andrew Sullivan equivocates on the question here.

I found these pictures, with the appended humorous dialogue, here. Remember that Kim declared long hair bad for socialism. The NK media also claims Kim Jong Il can manipulate time. So when it gets this wacky, it’s fairly hysterical. It’s hard not to laugh, right?

On the other hand, you can in fact imagine that the captions above to the third picture are accurate. The regime is that arbitrary and brutal.

My sense is that it is within the bounds of ethics to laugh at communist kitsch after the regimes have collapsed or at loopy Chavez-types who aren’t too destructive  – yet. But North Korea is probably too far. Comments would be appreciated.

If you want even more North Korean surreality to tempt your ethics with humor, try here for the genuinely bizarre subculture fetishizing the pretty but robotic North Korea traffic cops. Yes, it’s that weird. See if you can avoid laughing…

For my other writing on how opaque and bizarre NK is, try here, here and here.

8 thoughts on “Is It Moral to Find Humor in North Korea’s Bizarreness?

  1. I think it’s healthy and useful to mock unaccountable power, as long as it doesn’t crowd out empathy for its victims. The ‘Greetings, Earthlings’ Economist cover did a lot to knock that psychotic dwarf down a few pegs several years back.

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  4. I am actually guilty of making light of North Korea’s bizarreness with a fake Kim Jong Il Twitter account.

    It did get me a brief mention in the New York Times, but over time I took less and less pleasure in it and eventually stopped altogether.

    — @imkimjongil

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