Kim Jong Un 'sexy' spoof slips over China's great firewall
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The story next made it to the flagship paper of the Communist Party, the People's Daily, on Tuesday along with a significant upgrade: a 55-photo slideshow of Kim. An editor at the People's Daily website who refused to give his name said the story was picked up from the Guangming Daily site, running on three channels in Chinese and English.
Upon realizing it was a spoof, the People's Daily decided to take down their versions on Wednesday. But not before The Onion updated their original piece with a link to the People's Daily and a shout-out: "For more coverage on The Onion's Sexiest Man Alive 2012, Kim Jong-Un, please visit our friends at the People's Daily in China, a proud Communist subsidiary of The Onion, Inc.''
"Exemplary reportage, comrades,'' The Onion wrote.
It is not the first time China's heavily censored media have fallen for a fictional report by the just-for-laughs The Onion.
In 2002, the Beijing Evening News, one of the capital's biggest tabloids at the time, published as news the fictional account that the U.S. Congress wanted a new building and that it might leave Washington. The Onion article was a spoof of the way sports teams threaten to leave cities in order to get new stadiums.
Jeremy Goldkorn, director of Danwei.com, a firm that researches Chinese media and Internet, said that one of the peculiarities of the Chinese news business is that stories can be freely shared by any other media outlet in their entirety, or edited, as long as the original source is credited somewhere on the page.
"It does mean that stuff gets circulated a lot more widely because you don't have intellectual property restrictions on articles that you would in the U.S. for example,'' he said. "So when you mix that up with this culture of no fact-checking and not really having a news editor whose main job is seeking truth, then what you get is The Onion being taken seriously in the People's Daily.''