The (comic) legend of Kim Jong Il


While North Korean leader Kim Jong Il was vilified in the West as a temperamental tyrant with a nuclear arsenal, we can’t forget that many in the western world knew him more as a caricature.

Kim, who died Saturday, is also remembered for his small stature, bouffant hair-do, platform shoes and jump suits, rotating stable of women and boasts of expertise in every field imaginable.

Kim’s image became fodder for comedic TV/film writers in the West, especially in the United States.  And nothing’s changed with his death. 

Just today, General Aladeen, the North African despot portrayed by Borat actor Sacha Baron Cohen in the upcoming comedy The Dictator (click here to watch the trailer), issued a statement marking Kim’s death with a special expression of gratitude for all the late leader did to “spread compassion, wisdom and uranium throughout the world.”

Another immediate example is NBC’s 30 Rock, which will return Jan. 12, 2012, for a sixth season.  The fifth season left off with Kim capturing TV journalist Avery Jessup (played by Elizabeth Banks), the wife of Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin), in North Korea.

With Avery being held captive, Jack is left to raise their newborn daughter on his own. But with Kim dead, fans wonder where that storyline will go.  

Almost as soon as the death of North Korea’s “Dear Leader” was announced on state television Sunday night, the 2004 comedy “Team America: World Police” became a high-trending Twitter topic.  In the film, Kim is portrayed as a singing puppet in the movie by “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. 

The movie pits a covert team of U.S. military puppets against some of the world’s dictators — including a piano-playing Kim, who croons the politically incorrect song I’m So Ronery (warning: the video linked here does contain an obscenity).

There are many other examples, of course, including Mad TV and NBC’s Saturday Night Live.

Kim himself might have appreciated the references as he was reportedly a huge movie fan with a collection of 10,000 to 20,000 DVDs.

In fact in 1978, when Kim was running North Korea’s film industry under his father Kim Il Sung’s rule, he famously had South Korean filmmaker Shin Sang-ok kidnapped to make films for him. 

Who could forget their collaboration: 1985’s Pulgasari, a giant-monster film similar to the Japanese Godzilla series.   

Luckily, Shin escaped the following year, saving his life, career and reputation.

The (comic) legend of Kim Jong Il