Kim Jong-un Sure Isn't Sexy. But He May Not Be Crazy, Either.

Parodies of Kim Jong-un and North Korea are indicative of the scary reality that we simply don't have a lot of information about what is actually happening inside North Korea. 

Kim Jong-un is at the center of both a bloody tragedy and a comedy of errors. China's People's Daily, for instance, was fooled by an Onion story that declared the pudgy North Korean dictator the world's Sexiest Man Alive for 2012. Since Beijing is a loyal booster of the Pyongyang regime, this was news worth celebrating. And so the People's Daily -- a propaganda organ of the Chinese Communist Party -- wrote a glowing article about the Onion report, accompanied with a 55-page slideshow proudly detailing Kim Jong-un's sexiness. 


While the Onion story, of course, was pure parody, Kim Jong-un is actually in the running for an award that carries with it serious prestige -- Time Magazine's Person of the Year. As of this writing, Kim Jong-un is way out ahead in Time's online voting. Of course, Kim's rank is mostly due to a bit of tomfoolery conducted by 4chan, the notorious online bulletin board site

But maybe the pranksters and trolls are onto something. Time's editors will be the ones ultimately selecting the Person of the Year, a recognition of the person who, "for better or for worse...has done the most to influence the events of the year." Here's how the attention-craving Kim Jong-un fits that description. In his first year as North Korea's supreme leader, Kim has consolidated his power considerably through purges. He's thumbed his nose at allies and enemies alike. And he still has a big card left to play: a planned satellite launch in the next week or so that is likely a smokescreen for a ballistic missile test. 

What's the Big Idea?

So why exactly has Kim Jong-un become such a popular subject of online hoaxes and memes? Perhaps this is due to the comic strip image we have of him: he's a goofy looking hermit, a narcissistic, self-caricaturing little brat who has constructed a personality cult so ridiculous that it reminds one of Chuck Norris facts. And yet, only certain parts of the image we have of Kim hold true, says Victor Cha, the former director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council. And there are dangerous implications for getting this wrong. 

In an interview with Big Think, Cha told us that the single biggest misconception about North Korea is "this notion that they are crazy and irrational." So what exactly do we know about Kim and the political apparatus he has aligned himself with?

Watch the video here:

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