North Korean Propaganda Video Shows Manhattan in Flames

By: New York Times Email
By: New York Times Email

(New York Times) - North Korea is not known for its subtlety, famous instead for its soaring patriotic rhetoric and threats to turn the capital of its rival, South Korea, into a “sea of fire.”

But even by those standards, the latest volley of North Korea propaganda is noteworthy. Posted recently on YouTube, a video by one of the North’s propaganda agencies shows an animated version of Manhattan in flames — part of a dream in which a young Korean man envisions a glorious future of rocket launchings and the reunification of the Korean Peninsula. The background music to the scenes of launchings and destruction: an instrumental version of “We Are the World.”

“I see black smoke billowing somewhere in America,” the text that scrolls across the screen says in what are, in essence, subtitles of the man’s dream. “It appears that the headquarters of evil, which has had a habit of using force and unilateralism and committing wars of aggression, is going up in flames it itself has ignited.”

By Tuesday afternoon, the video had been removed from YouTube after a copyright complaint from Activision, the maker of the video game “Call of Duty,” from which the fiery New York scene was lifted. Copies, however, were up elsewhere on the Web, including on Live Leak.

The three-and-a-half-minute clip — titled “On Board Unha-9” and posted on YouTube on Saturday by Uriminzokkiri, a North Korean government Web site — is the latest evidence of the propaganda mileage Pyongyang is extracting from its Dec. 12 launching of its Unha-3 rocket, which the West considers North Korea’s first successful test of long-range-missile technology.

North Korea has been trumpeting the success of the rocket, which put a satellite into orbit, to its people, saying it was proof that their country was advancing toward a high-tech future. But the latest video is part of a years-long effort by the North to reach South Koreans and Koreans around the world through the Internet. (North Korea keeps its people, except for a tiny portion of its elite, cut off from the Internet.)

This is not the first time North Korea has portrayed attacks on the United States. Propaganda posters have shown a missile striking what looks like Capitol Hill.

The latest propaganda assault comes after weeks of increasingly strident missives from the North, which is angered by a Washington-led United Nations resolution tightening sanctions as punishment for the rocket test. The country has since promised a nuclear test, its third, as it tries to build what it calls a deterrent against attack by the United States or others.

There is no evidence that the North has the ability to strike the United States mainland with missiles.

The launching of the Unha-3 has become a symbol of pride in impoverished North Korea, where the government has told its people the success came despite American plots to “strangle and stifle” North Koreans. Thousands of scientists and officials there who were involved in the rocket project have been awarded government medals, according to North Korean news media.

Another YouTube video, also uploaded on Saturday, showed the Unha-3 rocket blasting off while a narrator identified as a worker in a Pyongyang cosmetics factory compared the moment to “flame of love igniting at first sight.” She also likened South Korean diplomats who pushed for United Nations sanctions to “ugly things” and “confrontational maniacs.”

Uriminzokkiri has been running Twitter and YouTube accounts since 2010, uploading more than 5,470 songs, news reports and videos. Earlier pieces had called Hillary Rodham Clinton, when she was secretary of state, a “minister in a skirt” and South Korean officials “servile dogs.”

South Koreans are blocked by their government’s firewall from gaining access to North Korean Web sites, but they could watch Uriminzokkiri posts on YouTube.

The “On Board Unha-9” video shows a sleeping man dreaming of traveling in a space shuttle named Kwangmyongsong-21. (The suggestion is that the North has a bright technological future, since the country is apparently up to only the third version of the Unha rocket, and the satellite that North Korea put into orbit in December is named Kwangmyongsong-3.)

The shuttle circles the Earth, passing over the Korean Peninsula, where people are jubilant over a reunification of the two Koreas. The camera then zooms in on the cataclysmic Manhattan scene from “Call of Duty,” which features Russians invading New York.


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