Despite their Dear Leader’s best efforts, some North Koreans who have defected south have seen The Interview and the reviews are in:
“Some North Korean viewers found it offensive that Kim Jong-un was being ridiculed and that the North Korean culture was portrayed in a very inaccurate way… Some have asked us if [Kim Jong-un] really was being mocked overseas.”
The person being quoted is Kim Seong Min, one such North Korean defector who runs the anti-Pyongyang Free North Korea Radio. He spoke to South Korea’s version of CBS and said that many of his fellow North Koreans were disappointed to see how their leader, even a fictional version, was being treated. North Korean leadership is viewed as godlike, literally idolized by the citizenry. THR says that North Koreans “don’t get the joke,” probably because they don’t view even an imaginary assassination of their leader as a joke. The fact that there is a movie about him at all, especially one that doesn’t celebrate him as a deity, is also deeply disturbing to even the most ardent anti-Kim activists. Park Sang-Hak, an activist who defected from the north in 1999, said:
“For North Koreans, it’s the equivalent of portraying Jesus as a debauched, crooked scoundrel. It would not be at all funny.”
However, that is precisely why Park wants more North Koreans to see The Interview; while he doesn’t see the humor in the satire, he does see this as effective propaganda against the Kim’s legacy of dictatorship. It portrays Kim Jong-un as an international laughingstock instead of a flawless, venerated leader. Park believe that this is just the “bombshell” North Koreans need and he plans to distribute 100,000 copies of the movie in his home country using gas-filled balloons.
Some North Koreans had other issues with the movie, such as inaccuracies concerning human rights violations. But a major beef with The Interview was directed toward the actor portraying Kim Jong-un, Randall Park. It wasn’t his acting choices that turned them off, but rather his physical appearance: because he didn’t look enough like Kim Jong-un. But the dissimilarity ended up providing a really ironic source of humor for some viewers:
“The actor did not look like Kim Jong-un at all,” Lee Han-Byul, one of the defectors who attended the screening, told AFP. “In North Korea, actors in films are almost exact lookalikes of the heroes they are playing.”
Does that mean that for North Koreans, the joke is actually on Sony? Again?