UPDATE: The actual number of DVDs was 200, not CNN’s originally reported figure of 80,000, according to later reports.
Pretty much any television show or movie that depicts average Westerners regularly enjoying things like washing machines and warm showers and food has immense propaganda value in North Korea, where eating bark and sh*tting in buckets is something most have lots of experience with. But The Interview especially has pissed off the hermit kingdom, being doubly subversive as it not only portrays the west but makes fun of the North Korean regime directly. To that end, North Korean defector turned activist Lee Min-bok says that despite dire warnings from Pyongyang, he’s carried out four separate expeditions to drop DVDs of The Interview over the North via balloon, the latest carrying 80,000 copies. That’s assuming Kim Jong-un didn’t pop them all with his team of unicorns.
North Korean defector-turned-activist Lee Min-bok said he had carried out four cross-border balloon launches since January – the latest one on Saturday.
On each occasion he tied bundles carrying copies of The Interview and anti-Pyongyang leaflets to helium balloons, which he then released from the back of a truck.
“I launched thousands of copies and about a million leaflets on Saturday, near the western part of the border,” Lee said.
All the launches were carried out at night with little or no advance publicity, given the sensitivity on both sides.
A CNN camera crew that followed Lee on Saturday filmed him attaching the bundles to the balloons in the middle of the night, before releasing them into the darkness.
The balloons are wholly at the mercy of the prevailing winds, and it is impossible to determine how many will actually come down in North Korea. [TheGuardian]
It’s not the most perfect plan. It counts on 1. the DVDs floating somewhere where people can receive the DVDs without getting tracked by guards or soldiers (fun fact: it’s popularly believed that one in three North Koreans is a government informant). 2. North Koreans taking the DVDs at risk of imprisonment or execution, and 3. Those people who take the DVDs having a DVD player. It seems like a bit of a long shot, but… hey, it can’t hurt, I suppose. I mean, unless you get tortured or executed, which probably does hurt.
So this Lee Min-bok, he must really like Seth Rogen movies, right?
Lee Min-bok didn’t laugh once when he watched “The Interview.” The North Korean defector calls the Hollywood comedy “vulgar,” admitting he couldn’t even watch the whole film.
Okay, so you didn’t think it was funny, maybe it has other charms?
“The regime hates this film because it shows Kim Jong Un as a man, not a God,” says Lee. “He cries and is afraid like us and then he’s assassinated.” [CNN]
I like to imagine big groups of North Korean defectors watching The Interview, groaning at every joke and rolling their eyes the whole time, but gritting their teeth and forcing themselves to choke it down. “Is this movie good?” “Ugh, no, it’s terrible. But Kim Jong-un hates it.” God help those poor bastards if the Worker’s Party ever feuds with Big Bang Theory.
There have been mixed reviews of The Interview from North Korea observers. Defectors don’t seem to be the best audience for the jokes, while Nothing To Envy: Ordinary Lives of North Koreans author Barbara Demick praised the film, saying, “behind the silliness and the smut, the filmmakers get a lot right about North Korea.” Conversely, as A Kim Jong-il Production author Paul Fischer told me just the other day, “Two idiots go to Asia and shove stuff up their butt isn’t great satire.”
Eh, everyone’s a critic. I thought all the Randall Park stuff was pretty good. Better than eating bark, at least.