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Jong’s Not Mad

It’s great to have something to laugh at during these times of financial doom and gloom. And there’s been no better provider of the chuckles recently than the death of North Korea’s comedy dictator, Kim Jong-Il.

Not since Rod Hull fell off his roof has the demise of a famous person caused so much general merriment. Newspapers, blogs and Tweets have all served-up a regular feast of funnies about the deranged world of this terrible little tyrant.

  • His taste for roast donkey
  • His obsession with slasher movies
  • His lust for teenage girls

And not forgetting his deluded claim to be the world’s greatest golfer, having racked up 11 hole-in-ones in a single round.

These were just some of the Kim Jong-Il nuggets served up by the likes of the Guardian, BBC, Telegraph, Independent, CNN and New York Times. These crazy ‘facts’ have been remixed and regurgitated to create a blizzard of forum posts and Top 10 lists.

It’s been an absolute hoot. The only problem is – well, it’s mostly bollocks.

When you examine these ‘facts’, you find they are rumours, exaggerations and myths. It’s the equivalent of the North Koreans reporting that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, eats dogs and is a crack addict.

But our media has been happy to repeat these stories – because North Korea is our enemy.

Here are a few examples of the Kim Jong-Il facts claimed by the mainstream media:

CRAZY FACT 1

Kim Jong-Il claims to be the world’s greatest golfer

In 1994 the North Korean propaganda machine reported that Kim Jong-Il had racked up 11 hole-in-ones during his first ever attempt at playing golf. His 38 under-par round at the Pyongyang Golf Course was verified by his 17 bodyguards.

Evidence?

It’s a great story, but there’s no record of either the North Korean media or Kim Jong-Il ever having made this daft claim. The origins of this ‘fact’ are based on a meeting between an Australian journalist and some random golfer during a 1994 visit to North Korea. Here’s the original and here’s the journalist talking about the way his story has been embroidered.

CRAZY FACT 2

Kim Jong-Il was the world’s biggest guzzler of Cognac

Kim Jong-Il was a notorious boozer and the biggest single purchaser of cognac in the world. His favourite tipple was a brand called Hennessey. The drink makers confirm that during the 1990’s the North Korean leader spent an annual budget of $700,000 on bottles of their liquor.

Evidence?

There is no evidence of Hennessey ever having confirmed these figures. The story first emerged in a 1994 Wall Street Journal article and the claim is made by a South Korean propagandist who cited only a ‘diplomatic source’.

CRAZY FACT 3

Kim Jong-Il kidnapped a movie director and forced him to make propaganda Godzilla films

In 1978 a famous South Korean film director called Shin Sang-ok was kidnapped by North Korean secret agents. He was imprisoned in a Pyongyang jail and forced to make Godzilla style propaganda movies for Kim Jong-Il.

Evidence?

This is highly dubious. Shin Sang-ok initially said he had defected to North Korea, only later claiming to have been kidnapped. In the period before his relocation, he had found himself in dispute with the South Korean government, who had revoked his licence to make films. He was facing spiralling financial problems and a messy divorce. He did make a Godzilla clone though.

This has all helped to create a powerful image of Kim Jong-Il as the archetypal evil dictator. He is the creepy puppet who appeared in Team America. A deranged nutter who was obsessed with nuclear weapons.

So where does this come from?

The Subtle Art of Psyops

In many ways, we in the West are more susceptible to propaganda than the weeping and wailing North Koreans we tend to mock. At least they know what they’re getting. They know that when they switch on a TV or read a newspaper, they are receiving information which is filtered through the state.

We have absolutely no idea. We are exposed to a form of ‘grey propaganda’ which exists in the ether. We sense it’s there, but don’t know where it is, or what form it takes. In America, the technique of influencing public perceptions in this way is known as Psychological Operations, or psyops.

PSYOP expert: Jerrold M Post

And one of the CIA’s main experts in the field of psyops is a man called Jerrold M Post. He has many different titles, most impressive being: Founder of the CIA’s Center for the Analysis of Personality and Political Behavior’.

Jerrold M Post’s name crops up time-and-time again when you start to search for the origins of the various ‘Kim Jong-Il is a nutter’ stories. With his academic hat on, Post has established himself as the go-to-guy for journalists wanting an insight into the personality of the North Korean leader.

His expertise comes from a psychological profile he compiled for the CIA, the results of which were published in a 2004 book called ‘Leaders and Their Followers in a Dangerous World’.

So when it comes to finding crazy and unsubstantiated facts about Kim Jong-Il, he literally wrote the book. He collects together disparate rumours, half-truths and exaggerations; sprinkles in a few academic references, and uses it as proof that Kim Jong-Il was indeed dangerous, bad and mad.

He talks about his cognac guzzling sessions, his obsession with Hollywood movies, the naked parties and ‘joy brigades’ full of teenage girls. He even hints that he killed his brother during a childhood argument. The main source for many of the more lurid stories is a Japanese sushi chef called Kenji Fujimoto.

He is a bizarre character who worked for Kim Jong-Il in the 90’s and has since made a lucrative career out of appearing on chat shows, wearing a bandanna and shades to protect his identity, and dutifully dishing out the dirt on Kim Jong-Il.

Given the inability of anyone to verify anything he says, and the financial incentives for him to talk; it’s hard to believe any of the florid tales about his alleged close friendship with the ‘Dear Leader’.

But these, and the rest of the half-baked stories, have been presented as fact by the authoritative Mr Post. He has repeated them constantly in the many interviews and articles he has provided the media over the years.

“Here’s a guy who is very concerned about his physical stature, among other things. He’s 5-foot-2 and wears four-inch lifts in his shoes.”
Jerrold M Post, CNN, 2003

“He’s not clinically crazy, but he is crazy like a fox and has some major insecurities that help explain the way he acts. He is a film fanatic with a video library containing more than 15,000 movies. His view of the world and how he should behave and how others will respond is doubtless shaped by these films.”
Jerrold M Post, The Sunday Telegraph, 2006

“He recruited attractive young girls of junior high school age to take part in joy brigades. And the joy brigades’ function was to help in relaxation to his senior officials.”
Jerrold M Post, CNN, 2005

“As his country was starving, with the average income of North Koreans being between $900 and $1,000 a year, he was spending, according to the Hennessy Fine Spirits Corporation, between $650,000 and $800,000 a year. Rather extraordinary.”
Jerrold M Post, ABC, 2006

So here we have a CIA official, a self-proclaimed expert in psyops, who for many years has been one of the main sources in the West for information about Kim Jong-Il. The stories he spreads are essentially, tittle-tattle – exaggerations and unsubstantiated rumours.

But they have successfully been embedded into the mainstream media and allowed to take on a life of their own – mutating and growing through the digital world. Jerrold M Post has already been providing news organisations with his psychological insights into the mind of Kim Jong-Il’s successor; his son Kim Jong-Un.

How long before we start to see the first ‘Top 10 Crazy Facts about Kim Jong-Un’?

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