Pyongyang style

North Korea betrays a humorous streak, parodying a pop single for propaganda

The notoriously secretive North Korea makes strange forays into international news. Recently, pictures of a mystery woman standing next to its leader Kim Jong-un gave rise to weeks of speculation, until the state media clarified she was his wife. Now, in an unprecedented fit of caprice, it has posted on its official website a clip parodying "Gangnam Style", the enormously popular video by the South Korean pop star PSY. Pyongyang used the video to take a dig at the South Korean presidential candidate, Park Geun-Hye, who belongs to the ruling Saenuri party. Only last month, North Korea had threatened "all-out" war on its southern neighbour, after the US and South Korea conducted joint military exercises. It now seems to have abandoned belligerence for satire.

"Gangnam Style", which managed to stir the tight-lipped Pyongyang, is one of the few Korean videos to have broken out of the Asian market. The US navy did a parody of it, lifeguards in El Monte got fired after they tried to spoof it, Ellen Degeneres imported PSY into her show to teach Britney Spears his signature dance. Perhaps it is no coincidence that Pyongyang picked a video feted in America to parody South Korea, which has close ties with the US. The original video shows the stocky pop star emerging from the stables to break into a jig that roughly imitates riding a horse. The North Korean version has Park's face tacked on to the dancing figure, mocking her for endorsing the actions of her father, Park Chung-Hee, who seized power in 1961, got himself elected in 1963 and ruled till his assassination in 1979.

This is unexpected, coming from North Korea, where leadership has been passed down from father to son since 1948 and where the last elections, held in 2009, saw the late Kim Jong-il voted "unanimously" into power. Could this video bode a change of heart in Pyongyang?

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