Jack Tame: Pictures aside, North Korea no joke


They rushed to waist depth, a swoop of men in green. Each face was delirious with joy or despair, indiscernible, but hyperbolic, emotion. Every man raised his arms with his palms open and forward, like a tipsy aunt trying to hula-hoop.

The closest few soldiers reached for the boat. Kim Jong Un sailed away.

Since the video was broadcast early this month, North Korea's government has published regular propaganda in what - for those outside North Korea - amounts to farcical episodic delight.

If you relied solely on YouTube you could be mistaken for thinking the White House had been bombed and South Korea invaded, but for the video's amateurish aesthetics.

Indeed, recent state films evoke less the work of Leni Riefenstahl and more that of a generously moderated project by lower-quartile schoolkids.

The problem with Photoshop is that everyone else has it. So, in a pissing-contest photo, in which half your military hovercrafts look exactly the same, it takes little zooming or deduction, or even the CIA, to work out North Korea's militaristic might, might not actually be quite so.

The US' new Defence Secretary responded with propaganda of his own. Chuck Hagel's bolstering Alaska-based missile defence systems, and the ominous photo of a US stealth bomber flying above South Korea, was either a much better Photoshop effort or devoid of air-brushing.

It's easy to snigger at North Korean propaganda. It's easy to discard Kim Jong Un as a chubby, narcissistic, (bizarrely) Dennis Rodman-pandering, deluded funster in a land of the oppressed and hungry.

But nuclear proliferation isn't a joke. And though a war-wary US President may be unenthused to have to check his rules of engagement, there are only so many taunts and tests that will keep the US public satisfied with sanctions, and South Korea or Japan from really getting serious.

It's worth a close watch, and on more than just YouTube.

- Herald on Sunday

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