It’s been a while since a viral video caused an international incident, but tensions are rising between North Korea and the Chinese government and a YouTube parody is at the center of it all. North Korea is demanding that the Chinese government act to remove an unflattering parody video that has already spread widely across social media in China and around the world.
The video features the face of Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s authoritarian leader, crudely Photoshopped onto a series of dancing bodies. The video is set to a song by Chinese pop-group The Chopstick Brothers and shows Kim dancing in a series of comical and unflattering scenarios. In one scene, the North Korean tyrant fights unsuccessfully with President Barack Obama. In another, his face, along with that of his father Kim Jong Il and grandfather Kim Il Sung, are Photoshopped onto the dancing hamsters from a semi-recent Kia ad campaign. The video was created by a Chinese citizen who had previously studied in South Korea.
The Shanghaist reports that the North Korean government has demanded that the video be taken down as it depicts Kim Jong Un in an unflattering light and “seriously compromises Kim’s dignity and authority.” However, it seems that the Chinese government, with its tight control over the internet and all forms of media, is either unable or unwilling to remove the video now that it has gone viral.
Authoritarian governments have historically struggled with new media because it is inherently difficult to control. North Korea has no free press and virtually no access to the internet so the idea of viral video is likely an unfamiliar one. The Chinese have a large and vibrant online community that is closely monitored by government censors, but the Kim Jong Un video may have blown up too quickly or this may be a sign that China is unconcerned with protecting the dignity of its isolationist ally.
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