North Korean comedy is not a laughing matter

Comedy can be a tough, and sometimes dangerous business for those in North Korea.

Welcome to prime time programming on North Korea’s only television station. A cartoon explaining how to bomb the enemy, to traditional dance, and praising the supreme leader.

This is entertainment a la North Korean regime. The rare interlude, in between the news bulletins about Kim Jong Un’s god-like generosity and love of his people. To the western world, all of this is strange, a little twisted, and certainly devoid of any humor.

Would they ever make fun of Kim Jong Un? “I wouldn’t dare”, says Kim Seong Min from Free North Korea Radio. “That’s a path to death.” Kim knows because the defector and now anti-North Korea radio host was once a comedy writer for five years with the North Korean military.

As a comedy writer, is it very dangerous. What you can make jokes about? Among writers, says Kim, the ones sent to prison or executed most often are the comedy writers. Go too far on a punchline, it’s prison time – often for the entire family.

Kim says the goal of public comedy in North Korea is not to laugh, but as another method to enhance loyalty to the regime. It is little wonder North Korea fails to see the humor of this silly American movie. Satire just doesn’t exist. Joking about the supreme leader and killing the character on the big screen, is not metaphor, but punishable by death.

Kim understands why the movie would push North Korea to launch a cyber attack, something the regime denies doing.

This former comedic writer is now in the very unfunny business of recording news from the outside world and sending it via proxies into North Korea. He doesn’t joke as he reads about the global crisis surrounding ‘The Interview’ because he wants his former homeland to understand the very serious consequences of what began as a comedy.