North Korea has threatened a “resolute and merciless” response against the US unless it bans a film about an attempt to assassinate the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un.
In its first official comment on The Interview, a comedy directed by Evan Goldberg, North Korea warned the US government that failure to stop the film being released would be considered an “act of war”.
The comments, attributed by North Korea’s official news agency KCNA to an unidentified foreign ministry spokesman, did not mention the film by name, but it was clear that the criticism was directed towards The Interview, which will be released in the US on 14 October.
It appears that the film‘s plot has touched a nerve inside the regime, which takes a dim view of satirical treatment of its leaders and is notoriously paranoid about perceived threats to their safety.
In the film, Seth Rogen and James Franco play celebrity TV journalists who secure an exclusive interview with Kim, but are then recruited by the CIA to assassinate him.
The foreign ministry official, in typically bombastic style, berated the film‘s makers as gangsters and described the film’s release as “reckless US provocative insanity”.
The film had sparked “a gust of hatred and rage” among the North Korean citizens and soldiers, the official said, although ordinary North Koreans are probably unaware of its existence and, with very few exceptions, will never get to see it.
“The act of making and screening such a movie that portrays an attack on our top leadership … is a most wanton act of terror and act of war, and is absolutely intolerable,” the spokesman said in a statement carried by KCNA.
In the official trailer for The Interview, a CIA intelligence agent draws on many of the stereotypes surrounding North Korea, calling it the “most dangerous country on Earth”, and briefs the two journalists on the cult of personality surrounding three generations of the Kim dynasty.
“Kim Jong-un’s people believe everything he tells them, including that he can speak to dolphins, or that he doesn’t urinate or defecate,” the agent says.
Kim, played by the Korean American actor Randall Park, is portrayed as an overweight cigar smoker, although the 31-year-old leader is thought to prefer cigarettes. It is not clear if Kim, who was partly educated in the west, where he developed a love of NBA basketball, has seen the trailer.
His father, Kim Jong-il, was a well-known movie buff who ordered the abduction of the South Korean director Shin Sang-ok in 1987. Shin was forced to make propaganda movies for the regime until his escape.
Kim senior was famously parodied as a lonely despot, raging against the UN weapons inspector Hans Blix, in the 2004 comedy Team America: World Police.
Rogen, who co-wrote the script for The Interview, said the idea for the film arose from a discussion about how it might be possible for journalists with access to world leaders to carry out assassinations.
“We read as much as we could that was available on the subject,” he said in a recent interview with Yahoo Movies. “We talked to people in the government whose job it is to associate with North Korea, or be experts on it.”
Aware of rumours that the regime was unhappy about the film, Rogen tweeted: “Apparently Kim Jong Un plans on watching #theinterview. I hope he likes it!!”
By Justin McCurry