8 Feb 2013

Rocket attack on New York: the latest in North Korean propaganda

North Korea’s latest propaganda video shows a rocket attack on New York but, as John Sparks asks, is anyone listening?

How do you get your message across when nobody – and I mean nobody – seems to be listening.

It’s the latest challenge for the men and women of the North Korean propaganda office. Typically, they depend on shouty newscasters and scorching rhetoric to communicate their masters’ views.

Topics regularly include the catastrophic collapse of relations with their enemies, the inevitable and merciless destruction of their enemies – and the gift of a marble desk lamp by Cuban leader Raul Castro (yesterday’s top story).

But the thunderous threats don’t seem to be working like they used to. No-one’s reaching out to the North Koreans at the moment – no nation seems prepared to placate them. A few weeks ago, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution condemning the north’s rocket launch in December and the 15-nation council introduced a fresh wave of sanctions against a number of organisations and individuals.

The North Koreans responded just like you’d expect them to – by threatening to carry out another nuclear test and more long-range missile launches as well. But this seems only to have exasperated their only remaining diplomatic and economic benefactor – China. These the words of the Global Times, published by the Chinese Communist Pparty mouthpiece, the ‘People’s Daily’:

“If North Korea insists on a third nuclear test despite attempts to dissuade it, it must pay a heavy price.”

The “price” was spelt out in the next sentence….

“The assistance (North Korea) will be able to receive from China should be reduced.”

If that sounds benign, remember that North Korea is dependent on donations of food aid – and it’s questionable whether boyish leader Kim Jong-un and his military clique would be able to continue to rule without Chinese support.

Perhaps that’s why the folks at propaganda HQ felt they needed to up their game. What good is a threat for example, if you can’t visualise it.

A three and a half minute clip entitled On Board Unha-9 was posted on YouTube this week by Uriminzokkiri – a North Korean government website. The video shows rockets flying around the earth and the destruction of an American city which appears to be New York. The scrolling text says the ‘headquarters of evil’ is going up in flames  “that it itself ignited”.

You can see it here.

The video was removed from YouTube after a copyright complaint from the maker of the video game “Call of Duty – Modern Warfare 3”. It seems the North Koreans didn’t come up with the fiery New York bit on their own.

An official from the US State Department was asked about it at a press conference yesterday. A disgusted looking Victoria Nuland said she wouldn’t dignify the video with a comment. Fox News was less restrained however – guest commentator (and comedian) Dennis Miller said the US should take out Gangnam Style rapper Psy in a revenge attack. Someone tell him that Psy is South Korean.

If the current conflict between the world and North Korea is being waged by hostile video clips, then here’s something different from the South Koreans. That country’s air force marching band has done a pretty decent version of Les Miserables (re-named Les Millitaribles).

The story’s been changed around a bit – Jean Valjean the airman worries his girlfriend will break up with him because he has to clear snow every day, while Captain Javert is an over-eager duty officer who wants his charge glued to his shovel. But these musicians carry it off with a rather effective bit of propaganda of their own.

In a nation where military service is mandatory, the South Koreans are reassuring and reaching out to hundreds of thousands of men now standing guard over a tense and heavily fortified border with the north – and with singing this good, they’ll probably get their message across .

I wonder if they’re humming along in Pyongyang?

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