Single M dictator seeks lady. Must be: excellent, horse-like
July 14, 2012 8:26 PM   Subscribe

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has been appearing in public lately with a mysterious female companion. Speculation (and apparently gambling) continues to surround the matter of her identity, but the prevailing theory at present seems to be that she is one Hyon Song-wol, of Bochonbo Electronic Music Band fame. The internet presents us with her 2005 single "Excellent Horse-like Lady", offering a rare glimpse into the world of North Korean pop music.
posted by passerby (87 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
NK music is sounds like it's all made by one karaoke company.
posted by joelf at 8:30 PM on July 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


It is.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:35 PM on July 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


At gunpoint.
posted by Artw at 8:37 PM on July 14, 2012 [17 favorites]


Life in DPRK must feel like being trapped in a busted cheap karaoke machine. Someone should mashup/remix that with Throbbing Gristle's "Hamburger Lady".
posted by Burhanistan at 8:38 PM on July 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't get it. Is she horse-like because she works hard at the... thread... factory? This is a strange way to compliment someone.
posted by axiom at 8:39 PM on July 14, 2012


Clearly this is Avery Jessup in a wig.
posted by kafziel at 8:39 PM on July 14, 2012 [16 favorites]


(Which, incidentally is a pretty good palate cleanser for that NoKo-Pop.)
posted by Burhanistan at 8:40 PM on July 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


You just listened to The Bugle, didn't you?
posted by benito.strauss at 8:40 PM on July 14, 2012 [9 favorites]


That's the mock up thread factory they show visiting dignitaries. The real thread factory is made out of scraps of rusted metal and is manned by amputees who have each lost a limb to the machine.
posted by Artw at 8:45 PM on July 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


And now I want to go to a roller-skating rink.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:46 PM on July 14, 2012


Whoever does the remix needs to name it "Excellent Horse_Ebooks-like Lady"
posted by hellojed at 8:47 PM on July 14, 2012 [12 favorites]


Holy shit, socialist realism never exactly died out there, did it? That music video was like the nonsubversive version of the opening montage to Aki Kaurismäki's The Match Factory Girl.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:50 PM on July 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


My former roommate went to school (probably - she's 98% sure it was him, and 2% convinced it was someone posing as him) with Kim Jong Un while she was at the Berne School in Switzerland (Her dad works for the State Department.)

He was there under an assumed identity, and had a older student (also Korean) who was his (friend/cousin/brother/something who was presumed to be actually his bodyguard/handler, who from her recollection was certainly older than claimed.

She said he was fascinated by American media, obsessed with basketball and very quiet and didn't talk to nearly anyone, and when he did, he seemed very shy.

I hope - for the sake of the people of North Korea - that his exposure to the outside world means he's going to be a kinder ruler than his father, and that he'll try to slowly bring the country out of the state it's in. But that and a dollar will get me two donuts, so I don't count on it
posted by FritoKAL at 8:55 PM on July 14, 2012 [35 favorites]


Regarding the last link -- so that's what happened to Robert Palmer!
posted by desjardins at 9:06 PM on July 14, 2012


If Americans were as excited about factories as North Koreans, the Superbowl halftime show would feature a CNC milling machine that shoots fireworks. (I wish we were that excited about factories.)
posted by compartment at 9:22 PM on July 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


SRL half time show - it'd be the last and best half time show ever.
posted by Artw at 9:25 PM on July 14, 2012 [7 favorites]


Is she horse-like because she works hard at the... thread... factory?

She works hard for the shabu, so you'd better treat her right.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:31 PM on July 14, 2012 [7 favorites]


desjardins, Robert Palmer died in 2003... his band had to find other work somewhere...
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:32 PM on July 14, 2012


Is there anyone here who can provide a translation of Excellent Horse-Like Lady, please? Thanks.
posted by Flunkie at 9:46 PM on July 14, 2012


Excellent Horse-Like Lady

New band name, I called it. That's my new band name.
posted by spinifex23 at 9:46 PM on July 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


The title is actually "Well-bred Horse Maiden"

Lyrics translation:

Our factory's comrades laugh and say
Why, they take one look at me and say
I'm a maiden on a well-bred horse
Even after a hard day's work (Not 100% on this line and next one. Overtime? Weird NK dialect)
(I) don't complain (also weird NK dialect. Could be anything work-related that is negative)
My skills are truly like lightning
La la la la etc.
They say I'm the well-bred horse maiden (the titular line!)
Today (as usual) I went off to work earlier than everyone else
Wouldn't you know it my name was in the paper!
In the age of flight we fly (best guess. "Age of flight/era of flight?" Not familiar with this usage)
This must be an award bestowed upon youth
La la la la etc.
They say I'm the well-bred horse maiden

[Scenes of industry and perseverance]

In the era of creation borne of the labor party
The cherished new name bestowed upon (my) youth
Seated upon the well-bred horse by the great general
My life to extoll his name
La la la la etc.
They say I'm the well-bred horse maiden
Seated upon the well-bred horse by the great general
My life to extoll his name
La la la la etc.
They say I'm the well-bred horse maiden
posted by Tikirific at 10:00 PM on July 14, 2012 [89 favorites]


So basically it's self-aggrandizing rap through the lens of insanely oppressive socialism. "I'm SO MUCH BETTER a worker-comrade than you, worker-comrade."
posted by Tikirific at 10:02 PM on July 14, 2012 [17 favorites]


Tikirific, can you tell/explain if she's like someone who works like a horse, or owns/rides a horse. And in the US those have very different cultural connotations; are the connotations the same in Korean culture?
posted by benito.strauss at 10:09 PM on July 14, 2012


I find it unsurprising but still a little troubling that a North Korean colloquialism exists that means something like "a hard day's work" but also carries other connotations, maybe of overtime.
posted by contraption at 10:14 PM on July 14, 2012


It's got to be really difficult for him to get laid. I mean, aside from the secrecy and all, if the women know who you are then you've got the whole "I'm a God-King" thing to live down, just to set expectations. "No, I'm sorry I did not function as a God-King tonight, but I have a lot on my mind, what with our nuclear program and our starving people."
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:26 PM on July 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


I want to see North Korea join the European union specifically so that "Excellent Horse-like Lady" can go up against "My Lovely Horse" in the Eurovision Song Contest.
posted by striatic at 10:27 PM on July 14, 2012 [7 favorites]


Couple corrections after puzzling out some stuff over the phone with my dad:

(I) don't complain --> I'm not satisfied

In the age of flight --> Probably "in the age where we leap for joy."

contraption: The "tireless horse" connotation exists in Korea and her nickname does imply that she is hard working. But also implied is that she was given a (probably metaphorical) horse by The General (KJU) in recognition of her services - in ancient Korea (as well as medieval cultures everywhere I suppose) the king would bestow things like horses, or silks and stuff for praise-worthy stuff. North Korea is all about those olden days, despite the political structure that is completely antithetical (in theory) to their own. It is very much "The Korea" to them, free from foreign influence (even though Korea technically was a "autonomous vassal state" of the... Qing, I think?) - this is why they still refer to Korea as "Chosun" - the longest running dynasty in Korean history.
posted by Tikirific at 10:40 PM on July 14, 2012 [19 favorites]


Oops, sorry, that last one was in reply to benito.strauss. Clearly I'm not going to have any horses bestowed on me.
posted by Tikirific at 10:42 PM on July 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm guessing that this song is about Kristen Schaal?
posted by "Elbows" O'Donoghue at 10:42 PM on July 14, 2012


That CNN link - Umm... "There really are no more Kim's after this one." Doesn't Kim Jong Nam have a kid? For some reason I thought he did. Maybe not. Maybe they're only referring to Kim Jong Un and the aspect of a linear dynasty? Anyways...
posted by symbioid at 11:03 PM on July 14, 2012


And for those who have an interest in North Korea, an excellent blog that has a fair amount of info (and lots of great pics) is North Korea Leadership Watch. Tons more info there than you get from KCNA (which always seems to just be text releases, and a bunch of anti-imperialist propaganda at that).

Another good blog that has some interesting stuff now and then (though they don't seem to update as much as NKLeadership is North Korea Tech.
posted by symbioid at 11:07 PM on July 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fuck I love wikipedia - went to see about Kim Jong Nam, saw it misclaimed Kim Jong Un as his uncle, went to edit it, and by the time I got to the edit screen it was already fixed!
posted by symbioid at 11:11 PM on July 14, 2012


by the time I got to the edit screen it was already fixed!

Wikipedia is certainly lovable, but when the media is properly run by the State, that mistake wouldn't have happened in the first place.

Not without severe consequences anyway.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:26 PM on July 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Trying to decide what to say the ten thousand times I'll be asked "What's that you're humming?" by friends and co-workers in the next week.

I suppose I ought to just respond "Excellent Horse-Like Lady" and walk away.
posted by eugenen at 11:26 PM on July 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


If we're doing mashups, I require "Electric Ladyland. No, the OTHER "Electric Ladyland." Electric Horseyland?
posted by nicebookrack at 11:29 PM on July 14, 2012


Clearly I'm not going to have any horses bestowed on me.


Nonsense. Sometimes they will give you a pony 'round here if you ask nicely enough.
posted by louche mustachio at 11:39 PM on July 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


We have to lose that sax solo!
posted by Artw at 11:40 PM on July 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


One time, I was out at a work sponsored Happy Hour with my new Korean friend from the office. Now, as these things are wont to do when young professionals are involved , one thing led to another, and the Happy Hour spilled over into extended drinks, then late dinner, then even more extended drinks, and finally, “Do you guys want to go for karaoke?”

Now, I sang in the church choir when I was 9, but normally, it’s not exactly my habit to volunteer for 1-on-1 public humiliation, although I will admit to secretly being in awe of the guy that could bust out a pitch perfect falsetto rendition of I believe in a Thing Called Love by The Darkness after 9 beers.

Anyway, my idea of karaoke is a bar full of drunk assholes, everyone takes turns writing Journey songs on a notecard and the whole place rocks out to Piano Man even if your drunk ass doesn’t know the words because you’ve never sang the damn song in your life but your idiot friend convinced you to put your name in the hat.

Korean Karoke is not like that. You drive to a strip mall in the middle of who-knows-where Greater DC. You get a room, with just your party, a karaoke book, and a TV with oddly disturbing marital arts or knock-off simulacrums of Sailor Moon videos playing on loop. And it’s just you, on your own, with your best friends in the world (for the night) in a room, with Couching Tiger Hidden Dragon clips and the chorus Ice Ice Baby scrolling by like Robert Matthew Van Winkle himself is there egging you on at 3AM in a sketchy ass strip mall rental that doesn’t even have a valid liquor license on file. It’s just you in a room, unlicensed bootleg dubovers blaring while your friends look on, wondering why your ass can’t remember the soulful words of the Eagles classic Desperado without prompting and not so silently judging your crooning like it was the damn CMT Awards.

I don’t know what any of this has to do with Kim Jong Un, his alleged paramour, or geopolitical strategy, but I do know that I can provide a bang-up rendition of the male vocals “come on Barbie let’s go party” under extreme social duress.
posted by T.D. Strange at 12:07 AM on July 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


If you want to witness North Korean karaoke for yourself, in the Vice Guide to North Korea, the guy does some Karaoke with his minders. After watching a couple North Koreans sing some of their music, he noticed that Karaoke machine actually came pre-programmed with some western songs, so he treated them to Anarchy in the U.K. by the Sex Pistols. It got awkward.
posted by floam at 12:23 AM on July 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


My skills are truly like lightning

It was a little bit fright'ning
Everybody was excellent horse fighting
posted by hattifattener at 12:34 AM on July 15, 2012 [14 favorites]


oddly disturbing marital arts

Ah, one of those karaoke machines.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 1:12 AM on July 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


T.D. Strange, you've discovered the wonders of KTV.
posted by jiawen at 1:12 AM on July 15, 2012


The title is actually "Well-bred Horse Maiden"

She's his lovely lovely horse.

Note for KJU and KTV: Do not be intimidated by the high production values.
posted by jaduncan at 1:54 AM on July 15, 2012


What do you play for someone who has never heard Western popular music? That was the question running through my head as our tour guide, Miss Kim (no relation, obviously) asked us to hear some music from our countries. It was 2005, I had a Rio Carbon Pearl with 6GB of music, and we were on a bus from Pyongyang to Kaesong, to see the demilitarized zone, and the wall the American imperialists had built along the border. So we needed to pass time, and Miss Kim, who had met exactly one westerner (her language instructor) before she met the dozen or so on our tour group, was interested in what our music sounded like.

We had already had the opportunity to hear Korean music; actually quite a bit. Most of it was performers for our benefit; a fair bit more traditional, but some of it was like the links above (especially the shrill, vibrato-heavy female singers). The propaganda vans that ply the streets of Pyongyang every morning as a wakeup were not for our benefits, but those patriotic songs echoing through the silent grey towers made more powerful an impression than any performance.

As others on the bus shared their headphones with Miss Kim, I quietly flipped through my music; very little was Canadian, and this was someone who presumably had only contact with North Korean music. The Korean war started in 1950; before Dylan went electric, before Jimi Hendrix, before the Beatles, three years before Elvis walked into Sun records. Certainly a hell of a lot before the Ramones, who influenced essentially everybody I listen to. Imagine the culture shock of any of these events, how the new music just sounded like noise. Now imagine all of them piled onto each other. Lethal shock to the system.

And music gets infected with the culture it is in. At the Children's Palace (a facility for extracurricular activities), we were shown a large record collection as we passed through the library and then treated to a performance by a group of young children on keyboards. They banged out a tune so jolly it would have passed for circus music, all in perfect unison, with robotic faces and dead eyes. It was only afterward, looking at my pictures, that I realized that the albums were mostly duplicates, arranged on the shelf to hide the fact. And the one girl, a couple of years older than the others? Hers was the only keyboard that was plugged in. Once you how start realizing how blatant they are, the lies got easier to find.

In the end, I remembered there was one classic album I carried around. Someone who is as good a performer as there is, someone who has understandably written and sung lyrics, and a band that wouldn't freak out Miss Kim. Maybe not a Canadian, but there were no Americans on the tour, and my hometown of Calgary has a strong affinity for US country music. And there was a classic song on as universal a subject as love.

So I handed Miss Kim my headphones, and she attentively listened to Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Three, singing that love was a burning thing. She was surprised by the crowd noise - North Korean performances have silent, attentive audiences, who finish each act with demonstrative applause - and I think I may have let it slip that he was a famous musician, who was performing in a prison. I feel fairly certain that North Korean prisons don't get music legends swinging by to entertain them with songs of their own time in jail. And as she listened, I realized that one reason I chose Ring of Fire was that it was the kind of famous song that one day, if freedom ever comes to her country, she just might hear again.

A couple of days afterward, I was standing in the lobby of our hotel; the Yanggakdo, conveniently located on an island in the middle of the Taedong river, so we couldn't possibly mix with the locals. I was watching the saddest turtle in the world swimming around in the giant fishtank, and listening to Radiohead, as one of our other tour guides, Mr. Pak, came up to me. Mr. Pak was the younger of our group's two male tour guides; the older one was the head guide, but Mr. Pak was clearly not a tour guide at all; I think he was with our group less to spy on the other guides (everybody else in the country does that anyways) and more just to get experience with westerners. Of course, no matter his role, if he was even slightly interested in Western culture, I was going to indulge him. I at least had the presence of mind to jump back a couple tracks, so he got the acoustic opening of Fake Plastic Trees, rather than the epic-but-noisy guitar solo from Just. As another of our group joined us, he quickly, guiltily, sadly, handed me the headphones back. He never mentioned it again.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 2:05 AM on July 15, 2012 [73 favorites]


Homebody Trouble, very interesting story! How was it that you came to visit the country, if you don't mind me asking?
posted by floam at 2:43 AM on July 15, 2012


Thanks, Tikirific, for the translation of the song.

And for all you people making fun of the "thread making machine," it's a loom. It makes cloth. Most of the clothing and bed sheets that you own we're made on a machine just like that, in China, Vietnam, or India, with hardworking citizens of those nations restocking the spools just as our horse-related maiden is doing. North Korea should be proud to own a machine like that.
posted by sixohsix at 4:30 AM on July 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


needs more cowbell
posted by Flood at 5:00 AM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


The NPR link has a translation as well that's a little different from the one here:


"our factory comrades say in jest,

"why they tell me i am a virgin on a stallion

"after a full day's work i still have energy left

"my skills are truly like lightening they say

"they say i am a virgin on a stallion

"yet again today i was the first to leave for work

"apparently my name was in the paper

"in a xx time

"an award given to youth who live in flight

"they say i am a virgin on a stallion

"the party era is teeming with creation

"a new name they present to youth

"mounting a stallion the dear leader gave me

"all my life i will live to uphold his name

"they say i am a virgin on a stallion

"mounting a stallion my dear leader gave me

"all my life i will live to uphold his name"
posted by cropshy at 5:20 AM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


kinky.
posted by meows at 5:25 AM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


If this is what they show on North Korean MTV, I can't wait to see their version of "16 and Pregnant."
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:44 AM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I want to see North Korea join the European union specifically so that "Excellent Horse-like Lady" can go up against "My Lovely Horse" in the Eurovision Song Contest.

Technically, you only need for them to join the European Broadcasting Union. Algeria, Israel, Morocco and Tunisia are full-fledged members and thus get to enter Eurovision. (Israel does. Morocco has, but not very recently and I don't know about Algeria and Tunisia.) Oh, apparently Jordan and Lebanon, too. I missed them scanning the list on Wikipedia. Precisely how this happened, I don't know. Apparently, Egypt and Syria quit in protest when Israel was granted membership.

In summary, Eurovision's definition of 'Europe' is a bit squidgy round the edges, even more so than UEFA's, which makes sense for historical/political reasons (ex-USSR states got to stay, even if they're Kazakhstan and pretty obviously not in Europe, and Israel ended up in UEFA as a matter of expediency).
posted by hoyland at 5:56 AM on July 15, 2012


Maybe Kim Jon Un is a brony.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:05 AM on July 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


The NPR translation has some oddities, but it's pretty much correct. Tikirrific's translation had some gaps, but chose better terms for translating "처녀" (has a narrow meaning of "virgin" but more generally used to refer to a young unmarried woman, hence "maiden") and "준마" (it's used to denote a fine horse, not necessarily a stallion). The gist is that she is so fast, skillful and industrious with her work, she is comparable to a fine fleet horse, or somebody riding a fine fleet horse, but really, it's all thanks to her dear leader who has figuratively given her a 준마 allowing her to be the fine worker she is (he's the wind beneath her wings???).
posted by needled at 6:06 AM on July 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


Oh, and horses, Gangnam Style.
posted by needled at 6:10 AM on July 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


Don't click on needled's link! It's a trap an earworm!
posted by desjardins at 7:11 AM on July 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


needled: "Gangnam Style."

In an alternate universe, the star of this video (exhibiting such marvellous Ken-Jeong-as-Chang-isms) is Kim Jong Un himself.

His music career, of course, took place under a pseudonym, and the sunglasses are to hide his identity from the handlers Dear Leader sent with him to Berne.
posted by subbes at 7:17 AM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Please tell me I'm not the only one who's gone down the youtube rabbit hole hunting for "Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble" songs. In doing so, I've discovered the dprktvradio youtube channel. Looks like it hasn't been updated in a couple of years, but I'm pretty fascinated anyway.

On preview:

HAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh, thank you, needled -- I am now envisioning the "Gangnam Style" dance set to "Excellent Horse-Like Lady." Or just a mash-up in general.

"Heyyyyy, horse-like lady! Oppa Gangnam style!"

(Full disclosure -- didn't even need to click on needled's link to know what it would lead to because I've already seen it a few times this morning because I'm a big ol' fan-dork. But I did anyway because this MV delights me in ways I cannot fully express. Oh, PSY; so much love.)
posted by paisley sheep at 8:18 AM on July 15, 2012


Homeboy Trouble, how did Miss Kim react to Ring of Fire?

---

I like this song that I stumbled upon by following YouTube "related videos".
posted by Flunkie at 8:19 AM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


What do you play for someone who has never heard Western popular music?

Beatles, Beethoven, Boris*. By the way thanks for telling your story about the keyboard player in an older thread.

*If by Western we mean Western-influenced.
posted by ersatz at 9:05 AM on July 15, 2012


Was that really long opening zoom scene done on purpose, or was the camera just left unattended while the guards dragged away the first camera operator?
posted by orme at 9:17 AM on July 15, 2012


I should've added the caveat that I'm far more comfortable with English (received all my education in the US, have been living here since I was six) - that NPR translation is literal, but more accurate. I actually feel a little better that they didn't know what the hell era the song was talking about either - my vocabulary has suffered quite a bit over the years and faced with words I don't know, I don't know if it was something I've forgotten/never learned as opposed to some NK dialect-specific term (the latter is okay to me, since even some Southern Korean dialects are a mystery to Seoul residents).

Still, that song was incredibly easy to translate - literally I was typing with it playing in the background in real time, which I probably couldn't do with most modern South Korean songs (that would require pausing, replaying, some mulling over). I actually thought about this while I was driving to work today - it's because the content is so (quaintly) conversational, she enunciates very clearly (and surprisingly, without the typical NK inflection - I really have trouble understanding NK news broadcasts sometimes, for example), and the song lacks any complicated non-horse metaphors. I would've had to think/listen harder to translate even the song in needle's link, let alone having to explain to a Korean person what "still hittin them corners in them low lows girl" means (both literally and figuratively). That the song is so straightforward, easy to understand, and literal probably indicates that it was created for a very specific goal, designed to send a message to even the uneducated, etc. This is unsurprising but another interesting facet.
posted by Tikirific at 10:03 AM on July 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble - Greatest Hits Vol. 1 & 2 is featured in this blog post; amazing cover art. Here's a track listing.

01 Kimjongilia.mp3
02 My Country Bright With Sunshine.mp3
03 My Dear Friend.mp3
04 The Hero Was 18 Years Old.mp3
05 Azaleas.mp3
06 That's Thanks To The Leader's Care.mp3
07 Young Hearts Engraved In Tidal Flats.mp3
08 I Think.mp3
09 We Are His Soldiers.mp3
10 Yongchon Arirang.mp3
11 I Want To Clear The Sky.mp3
12 Reunification Rainbow.mp3

01 Jong Il Peak, Shine.mp3
02 Tondollari.mp3
03 Dear Brother Is Arrested.mp3
04 Farm's Young Peple.mp3
05 I Will Remain In The Motherland.mp3
06 The Village We Live.mp3
07 Song Of Blessing.mp3
08 When I Bloom As A Girl.mp3
09 The Youth Of The New Day.mp3
10 Spreading The Seed Of Revolution.mp3
11 Young Engine Driver.mp3
12 Red Folowers On The Beach Of The South Sea.mp3

It's actually sort of pleasant music. You can't really hear the starvation, gulags, and mortal punishment unto the third generation.
posted by Nelson at 10:15 AM on July 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


We have to lose that sax solo!

Pyongyang's alright..IF YOU LIKE SAXOPHONES!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:30 AM on July 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


that song was incredibly easy to translate ... the song is so straightforward, easy to understand, and literal

Tikirific, this is really interesting - I found the lyrics didn't stick with me at all because everything was so cliched. I'm glad you did the translating because in my case it would have required repeatedly pausing and rewinding to get the parts my brain just skipped over (this could also be due to my short attention span Gangnam style brain).
posted by needled at 10:50 AM on July 15, 2012


Tikirific - I would totally bestow a horse on you if I could. Not everyone can be error-free like the great leader.

Homeboy - I love trying to come up with appropriate music for any given person so I started trying to come up with something for Miss Kim while I was reading your story. Canadian, wide appeal, not challenging but not horrible? Isn't the answer "1234", Feist?
posted by benito.strauss at 10:57 AM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pyongyang's alright, if you like crazed dictators!
Pyongyang's alright, if you like mass choreography!

Pyongyang's alright, if you like power outages!
Pyongyang's alright, if you like NOT ENOUGH FOOD!

Pyongyang's alright, if you like giant pyramid hotels that were NEVER FINISHED!

Pyongyang's alright, if you like military governments!
Pyongyang's alright, if you like SECRET POLICE!

Pyongyang's alright, if you like informing on your neighbor!
Pyongyang's alright, if you like HARD LABOR!

Pyongyang's alright, if you like GETTING SHOT WHILE TRYING TO ESCAPE!

Pyongyang's alright
Pyongyang's alright
Pyongyang's alright
IF YOU LIKE SAXOPHONES!

posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:07 AM on July 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


This makes me want to rewrite the lyrics to The Doobie Brothers' "South City Midnight Lady."
posted by emelenjr at 11:12 AM on July 15, 2012


I am now envisioning the "Gangnam Style" dance set to "Excellent Horse-Like Lady." Or just a mash-up in general.

paisley sheep, i now blame you for my brain deciding to insert that "Oppa-n Gangnam style!" chant into that NK song.

Our factory's comrades laugh and say
Why, they take one look at me and say
I'm a maiden on a well-bred horse
Oppa's Gangnam style!
etc. etc.

posted by needled at 11:15 AM on July 15, 2012


Sorry for the delay; I hit post and then immediately went to sleep.

Homebody Trouble, very interesting story! How was it that you came to visit the country, if you don't mind me asking?

Tourism. My good friend was getting married in China, and I had a month or so of holidays around the wedding. By happenstance, maybe six months earlier, I bumped into my tour company while googling for something entirely different (a local chain of Korean restaurants). This made me realize it was possible to go to the DPRK. I've always been fascinated by communism/socialism as philosophies, and I really love Socialist Realism as an art movement, but I'm also interested the Socialist countries themselves. Fortunately, the regimes all collapsed or changed before I got the chance to do much international travel. Well, all but a few.

Homeboy Trouble, how did Miss Kim react to Ring of Fire?

Good-naturedly. Like I said, she was surprised by the crowd noise. I don't think she was exactly an instant convert or anything. She preferred the Irish folk one of the other folks on the tour played for her.

Isn't the answer "1234", Feist?

Not in 2005, it isn't. And not on the measly 6GB of music I had. There's lots of more traditional Canadian music I'd play if I had it; Ian Tyson's "Four Strong Winds", or "Crown of Love" by Arcade Fire, a bunch of maritime folk, even Stompin' Tom. But the only Canadian music I had with me was a bunch of uptempo Tragically Hip, and even Gord Downie doesn't know what the fuck he's singing about half the time.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:56 AM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: lacks any complicated non-horse metaphors.
posted by KathrynT at 12:48 PM on July 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


TheWhiteSkull: "Pyongyang's alright
IF YOU LIKE SAXOPHONES!
"

You have to give it to them, North Korea might have a whole lot of things wrong, but at least they require saxophonists to be licensed.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:09 PM on July 15, 2012


I want to see North Korea join the European union specifically so that "Excellent Horse-like Lady yt "

True fax: You don't need to be an EU country to have a song in eurovision. Lots of eastern bloc countries (ukraine, etc) submit songs despite not being EU countries. The "Eurovision zone" streches as far a west as Iceland, as far east as Azerbaijan, and as far south as Isreal.

In fact, North Korea is only one country away from Russia, which submits songs to eurovision.
posted by delmoi at 10:05 PM on July 15, 2012


My former roommate went to school (probably - she's 98% sure it was him, and 2% convinced it was someone posing as him) with Kim Jong Un while she was at the Berne School in Switzerland (Her dad works for the State Department.) ... I hope - for the sake of the people of North Korea - that his exposure to the outside world means he's going to be a kinder ruler than his father, and that he'll try to slowly bring the country out of the state it's in. But that and a dollar will get me two donuts, so I don't count on it
Yeah, hopefully. But who knows how much authority he actually has. Even if you look at someone like Obama, it's easy to do something that "the system" wants to do - like assisting with Libya for example, while doing something to curb greenhouse gas emissions is impossible. And that's within a stable constitutional framework. Imagine a situation where the only reason you have power is because people chose to listen to you. At any moment, they could change their minds, and turn you into a practical prisoner, forcing you to read speeches at gunpoint.

We really have no idea what his life is like in N.K, and how much real power he actually has. Even if he does want a more open society, it would make sense to go slow (especially considering that if things are 'stable' he could be running the country for over 50 years) But going slow means imposing lots of human misery on the population until you've accrued enough power. On the other hand, were he to try to go fast, the generals could pull a coup on him, and turn him into an involuntary figurehead, kick him out of the country, or just kill him.
posted by delmoi at 10:20 PM on July 15, 2012


True fax: You don't need to be an EU country to have a song in eurovision. Lots of eastern bloc countries (ukraine, etc) submit songs despite not being EU countries. The "Eurovision zone" streches as far a west as Iceland, as far east as Azerbaijan, and as far south as Isreal.

I would support a DPRK entry just for the following moment:

"Hello, this is Pyongyang. The results of the phone voting are as follows..."
posted by jaduncan at 11:38 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


"The Koreans still at the bottom of the table there."
"I think Forward to Glory with Our Dear Leader wasn't really poppy enough."
posted by jaduncan at 11:40 PM on July 15, 2012


I, for one, am very grateful to North Korea for showing us exactly what the Soviet Union would be like today if Stalin had been replaced by a succession of leaders exactly like him. It's a Lost World-style oasis of isolation and parallel development.

Of course, this comparison doesn't quite work because the world would likely be 95% smoking crater if that scenario had happened...
posted by ZsigE at 5:07 AM on July 16, 2012


ZsigE: Russia had far more resources, and clearly a better technological capability (they got a satellite, and a man in space before we did, they even sent robotic missions to the moon before we did) It seems like Stalin's leadership style (randomly exiling top scientists) should have caused problems as far as development goes but it doesn't seem to have been too much of a problem.
posted by delmoi at 5:27 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Deng Xiaoping rules the people during the day, but Deng Lijun rules by night.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:45 AM on July 16, 2012


I think there might be some hope for minor reform. The whole Disney kerfuffle *might* be one indication (that said, they've always had rosters of talent come in from around the world. I remember seeing a S. Korean boy band performance for the elites who were just kinda watching in a sort of dazed, bizarre curiosity).

But, another indication is the latest news that KPA Chief of Staff, Ri Yong Ho, was just ousted (due to "illness"), one wonders what sorts of power plays are going on.

I hope that he's going to reform (but not to be like China and just end up in capitalism, but maybe work towards an actual socialist society), but I'm afraid he might even be more ruthless, or that if he does reform, that others in the power structure might rise up.

There have been coup attempts before (in particular, in 1996).

The thing about it is, due to the internetworked relationship of their command and control structure, I think something like a coup would be *very* hard to pull off, and the only way it would happen is if the second in command ended up killing Un himself (I assume it's a he, and I assume that there is some sort of plan of succession just in case something happens).

Anyways, I do think that Un brings a new change of atmosphere, and I think he still is continuing to engage in hardline actions, unfortunately...
Last month, North Korea was accused of actively jamming global positioning system (GPS) signals, targeting South Korea’s two largest airports outside its capital city of Seoul. The jamming signals, which were first detected on April 28 and ended on May 6, were traced to the North Korean border city of Kaesong, just 10 km north of the DMZ. Suspicions fell on imported truck-based jamming systems from Russia, capable of jamming signals within 100 kilometres. Was it really North Korea who stood behind the GPS jamming incidents and, if so, what was the purpose?
I'm not sure why, but I get a very different vibe from Un than Il. I do think he tries to hearken back to his grandfather and wants to be a bit more open towards the people.

I don't envy him. Of course, I don't envy the North Korean people either. All I know is I hope they can find a better future than what they've had and still have.
posted by symbioid at 10:54 AM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


This CSMonitor on the removal of Ri Yong-ho has some useful insight into a variety of changes at the top. The astonishing thing is no one seems to know whether these changes mean Kim Jong Un is consolidating power or losing it. At least, not in open sources.
posted by Nelson at 11:12 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some weird stuff is indeed happening in North Korea right now: shorter skirts than usual and an unlicensed Disney show.
posted by elgilito at 11:17 AM on July 17, 2012


An Army of Un: Is North Korea's new leader putting the country's powerful military in its place?
posted by homunculus at 1:56 PM on July 19, 2012


According to an inside source, reported by Reuters, there is going to be change...
"Impoverished North Korea is gearing up to experiment with agricultural and economic reforms after young leader Kim Jong-un and his powerful uncle purged the country's top general for opposing change, a source with ties to both Pyongyang and Beijing said.

The source added that the cabinet had created a special bureau to take control of the decaying economy from the military, one of the world's largest, which under Kim's father was given pride of place in running the country.

The downfall of Vice Marshal Ri Yong-ho and his allies gives the untested new leader and his uncle Jang Song-thaek, who married into the Kim family dynasty and is widely seen as the real power behind the throne, the mandate to try to save the battered economy and prevent the secretive regime's collapse.

The source has correctly predicted events in the past, including North Korea's first nuclear test in 2006 days before it was conducted, as well as the ascension of Jang.

The changes could herald the most significant reforms by the North in decades. Previous attempts at a more market driven economy have floundered, most recently a drastic currency revaluation in late 2009 which triggered outrage and is widely believed to have resulted in the execution of its chief proponent.

"Ri Yong-ho was the most ardent supporter of Kim Jong-il's 'military first' policy," the source told Reuters, referring to Kim Jong-un's late father who plunged the North deeper into isolation over its nuclear ambitions, abject poverty and political repression.

The biggest problem was that he opposed the government taking over control of the economy from the military, the source said, requesting anonymity to avoid repercussions.

...
posted by symbioid at 4:39 PM on July 20, 2012


North Korea leader Kim Jong-un married to Ri Sol-ju. Same woman, but she's not the singer Hyon Song-wol as speculated here.
There is a North Korean singer by the name of Ri Sol-ju but it has not been confirmed whether Mr Kim's wife is the same woman.
Ms Ri is believed to have studied science and is from an upper-class family, her father being a professor and her mother an obstetrician, analyst Cheong Seong-chang told the South Korean Korea Times newspaper.
There's an NYT article too.
posted by Nelson at 8:19 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


N Korea Leadership Watch has a pic of her with him here as they take a tour of a park (as N Korean Dictators are wont to do)...
posted by symbioid at 1:41 PM on July 25, 2012


Next Media Animation delivers an animated story on the marriage. Featuring Kim Jong Un rescuing a kitten from a tree, ripping off a Chick-Fil-A, and humping his wife while wearing Mickey Mouse ears. They speculate that Winnie the Pooh performed the ceremony.
posted by Nelson at 7:46 AM on July 27, 2012


North Korea's Extreme Makeover: Pyongyang's new leading man, Kim Jong Un, is all about the lulz. But there's nothing funny about life in the world's most repressive state.
posted by homunculus at 3:20 PM on July 27, 2012


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