“North Korean” Twitter Feed

Another whole cloth copy from WSJ’s Best of the Web, decrying the "NoKo" Twitter hoax:

Yesterday we discovered something hilarious courtesy of blogger Eugene Volokh: a Twitter feed of “news” stories from North Korea. But we began to wonder if it was a hoax. We’ve read (and occasionally linked to) KCNA.co.jp, the official propaganda site for the so-called Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The tone of the DPRK_News tweets seemed right–i.e., absurdly pompous and self-congratulatory, and thus all the more hilarious when delivered via Twitter, some of them were completely believable (“Forest cutters urged to follow Juche Idea, surpass pulpwood supply goals”), and it turned out this really is “Water Sports Month” (sorry, make that “Months,” July and August) in North Korea.

But other tweets seemed too over the top,. Examples:

• “Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il tours Pyongyang Zoo, saves lives of children attacked by escaped bear.”

• “Korean People’s Air Force awes South Korean bandit puppets by demonstrating solar eclipse technology!”

• “Kim Il-Sung University professors breed world’s largest carrot!”

What really made us suspicious, though, were the ones that touched on American politics:

• “US Cable News Network reports racketeer president Barack Obama was born a slave in Indonesia.”

• “Progressive scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. released from US torture prison after outcry of world democratic peoples.”

• “Central Procurator Roh Seng-Teh denounces US Supreme Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor as sellout to independence of Puerto Rican people!”

The odds that anyone in North Korea has ever heard of Skip Gates or Sonia Sotomayor–much less the wacko birther madness–seem about as slim as someone who subsists on the average North Korean’s diet.

Still, we wanted to confirm that it was a hoax, so we did a little Web surfing and came upon this Forbes piece from May:

Since early April, a Twitter account under the handle @KCNA_DPRK, claiming to be based in Pyongyang, has been twittering headlines of the official news releases published by the Korean Central News Agency, the government-run news outlet of the dictatorial Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. . . .

The headlines, it seems, are real–or at least as real as any that emerge from North Korea’s reality distortion field. The twitterer, on the other hand, is an impostor.

In response to an e-mail from Forbes asking about its new presence on Twitter, a KCNA spokesperson replied: “We do not permit to appear KCNA on Twitter at all,” and said that the agency is currently inquiring with Twitter’s management regarding its tweet-alike. Twitter staff didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a twitter conversation with Forbes, the author of the KCNA twitter feed admitted that he or she was a writer and Web master for the German-language parody site Stupidedia, based in Austria. “KCNA has unintentionally funny articles, and I thought it would be funny if an antiquated regime like North Korea had a Twitter account,” wrote the faux-Communist, who didn’t respond to requests for his or her name.

So it’s a hoax, but with real headlines? The Norks actually denounced Judge Sotomayor and claimed to have produced the world’s biggest carrot? We were as confused as ever. But we clicked through to the link in the Forbes piece and realized it’s different from the one Volokh highlighted. KCNA_DPRK is a real hoax, while DPRK_News is a hoax hoax.

Then we thought about the unfathomable suffering of the 23 million people who live under the rule of what may be the world’s most monstrous dictatorship, and we felt a bit guilty for finding the whole thing so hilarious. Comedy equals tragedy plus time, according to a quote attributed to Carol Burnett. Apparently it also equals atrocity plus total isolation.

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