SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea on Wednesday warned against the release of a Hollywood comedy film about a plot to assassinate its leader, Kim Jong Un, calling the movie an “act of war.”
“If the United States administration tacitly approves or supports the release of this film, we will take a decisive and merciless countermeasure,” a spokesman for its Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency.
The spokesman did not elaborate on what North Korea’s retaliation might be. But he accused Washington of “provocative insanity” in mobilizing a “gangster filmmaker” to defile the country’s supreme leader, and reported “a gust of hatred and rage” among its citizens and soldiers.
In “The Interview,” a Columbia Pictures movie scheduled to be released in October, actor James Franco plays a talk show host and Seth Rogen his producer. The two pals head out to North Korea for an assignment of a lifetime: an exclusive interview with Kim, who in real life is the young dictator of a country that often threatens to fire nuclear missiles at Washington and its “pimp,” President Barack Obama.
According to the plot line, the CIA then drafts them to kill Kim.
In the film’s trailer, a female CIA analyst informs the duo about North Korea and Kim: “You are entering into the most dangerous country on Earth. Kim Jong Un’s people believe anything he tells them, including that he can speak to dolphins or he doesn’t urinate or defecate.”
In real life, the North’s totalitarian regime does try to ensure that its young leader, like his father and his grandfather - who ruled the country before him - is revered as a god-like figure among his impoverished people.
Its government lashes out at any hint of criticism or ridicule from the outside, reserving its harshest language for those who belittle Kim. With no independent media of its own, North Korea often argues that foreign media and human rights activists who have criticized Pyongyang did so at the behest of their governments. It regularly warns that it will bomb Seoul, including newspapers and television stations in the South Korean capital, unless they stop publishing articles mocking its leadership.
The Hollywood comedy has flown directly into that personality cult.
It “is the most blatant act of terrorism and an act of war that we will never tolerate,” the North Korean statement said Wednesday.
As if the producers of the film had anticipated such a reaction, their publicity poster shows North Korean tanks and missiles with a sign that says: “War will begin!”
The poster also says in Korean: “Don’t believe these ignorant Yankees!”
Despite his government’s daily rhetoric against the United States, Kim Jong Il, Kim’s late father, was said to have been a great fan and collector of Hollywood movies, especially the James Bond series. The elder Kim, whose love of films once led his spy agents to kidnap a South Korean movie director and his actress wife and bring them to Pyongyang, had used films as a tool of government propaganda.
He even penned a book called “On the Art of Cinema.”
There are signs that Kim Jong Un inherited his father’s taste for Hollywood movies. In 2012, North Korean state television showed him giving the thumbs-up to a girl group singing the theme song from the iconic movie “Rocky” during a concert that also featured Mickey Mouse.
In recent years, however, North Korea and its leaders have increasingly been the butt of the jokes in American pop culture. Kim’s father was parodied in “Team America,” a hit comedy film made by the creators of “South Park.” A 2002 Bond movie, “Die Another Day,” also cast North Korea as a country of villains.