Peerlessly Great Immortal Answer Key to Revolutionary Questions of Songun
by KIM JONG-IL
1. False, but with elements of truth. Jong-il had a younger brother—known by his Russian nickname Shura; Jong-il was known as Yura—who drowned at age four. The feminization of the leaders is not entirely false either, at least according to B.R. Myers interesting new book, The Cleanest Race, which asserts that North Korea has emphasized the maternal qualities of their leaders moreso than their masculine attributes.
2. False, but also with elements of truth. The state went to astounding efforts to keep the older Kim alive and... ahem... potent. The son established the Kim Il-sung Institute of Health and Logetivity for the purpose. One of its prescriptions was for the Great Leader to eat dog penises of at least seven centimeters. Ew. Source: Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader, Bradley K. Martin: Pretty much the book on North Korea.
3. False. The CIA has long alleged the DPRK prints $100 "Supernotes," so-called because they are such good fakes. I've seen an example of one of these purported Supernotes that was of the older design of U.S. bills with the smaller portrait. No such claims are made on smaller denominations. The counterfeiting operations are an established truth in the eyes of many, but I've never been very convinced. Indeed, the CIA and North Korea have something in common in being the target of conspiracy theories that vastly oversell their competency.
Pak Nam-gi has apparently been offed though, apparently as the fall guy for the nation's ruinous currency redenomination last year. Alejandro Cao—a North Korean apologist and quasi-spokesman—denied the claim, but poor Pak has been notably absent in DPRK propaganda. He was mentioned 10 times in each of the last three months of 2009, just once in January, 2010, and never again after that.
4. Totally fucking true. You can see it on Google Earth. The pleasure boat was first described in a book by Kim Jong-il's Japanese chef, who eventually got creeped out by his boss and fled back home and wrote about his experiences under a pen name. It's just one of a bunch of things in that book that seemed like crapola at the time but eventually proved true. The book is now considered one of the best pieces of intelligence about Kim's family.
5. The incident happened in 1993, according to defector Kang Myong-do. The dentist was French. Source: Martin.
6. Close, but still false. A fast-food joint did open in Pyongyang last year, and it does serve burgers. There is a bar in the basement of Westin hotel in Seoul that does indeed have the regrettable name of "McKim's." It is overpriced but has free pool tables.
7. True. Rabbits are a good option for North Korea, as they mature so quickly and they'll eat anything. I ate a bunny in Kaesong. It was tasty.
8. False. Though Kim's fascination with movies is well documented. He's written a book on it, On the Art of the Cinema. I have a copy—it's godawful.
9. Sadly, false. The official versions of history and the biographies of individuals have shifted over time in the DPRK. The degree to which the "Chinese volunteers" assisted in Korean War is one that waxes and wanes with contemporary politics. As for the young, Great Leader-to-be, his most-lauded feat was the "1,000-ri journey."
10. False. The show is real and usually takes place in April and August. It is fucking amazing.
11. True. For extra credit, hunt out the confession of the Pueblo's captain, which he swears to be true on the honor of the "Great Speckled Bird."
12. False. However, there was an amusing documentary on the National Geographic Channel where the undercover reporter was allowed to fire weapons in a North Korean gun range (he was encouraged to aim at a live rooster) and later took part in a children's field day, where they threw shit at wood cut-outs painted to look like GIs.
13. True, at least as far as the DPRK tells it. (Slight correction from me here: It was Kim Il-sung's GREAT grandfather who supposedly did this. Accuracy is important, even when relaying blantant falsehoods. As in, how many fictional DPRK satellites are there circling the globe, continuously broadcasting the "Song of General Kim Il-sung". There are two non-existent satellites doing this.)
14. False? The DPRK has a lot of torture to dish out every year, so it's within the realms of possibility that this has been employed at least once. Although technically you can allege that this claim was made via instant messenger by another notorious dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, who owes me money.
15. False. (Blatant Racism Warning!) Koreans do like gambling, but this is one vice I haven't read or heard ascribed to the Dear Leader.
16. False. They reportedly exchanged e-mail addresses though.
17. True, as unearthed by the invaluable STALIN search engine at the NK News site. DPRK propaganda is surprisingly meticulous in terms of spelling and grammar. Where it isn't so fluent is the use of idioms, some of which suffer from translation, and others look to have been plucked out of Poor Richard's Almanac. In this case, the "faggots" are from the original usage of the word to refer to a bundle of sticks, and certain behaviors by imperialists are as "foolish an act as jumping into fire with faggots on one's back." So, basically North Korea thinks that guy on the album cover of Led Zeppelin IV should keep away from open flame.
Other rhetorical gems from the DPRK propaganda organ include:
"This is like a thief crying 'Stop the thief!'"
"Running amuck like a tiger moth."
No ratings here, because the point of this piece is merely to clarify extraordinary rumors and true stories and indicate where some of this information can be found. Full reviews might be coming somewhere down the road, but it's best not to hold your breath.