Popularity online reflects West’s ‘distorted view’ of NK

By Catherine Wong Tsoi-lai Source:Global Times Published: 2014-12-26 0:13:01


A woman looks at the Google Play purchase page for the Sony film The Interview, in Washington, DC on Wednesday. Entertainment giant Sony released The Interview - a movie that outraged North Korea - online for US viewers on Wednesday. Photo: AFP

 A controversial Hollywood comedy about the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un caused an immediate stir on China's Internet after being made available online Wednesday.

The Interview, a provocative comedy that has triggered a diplomatic row between North Korea and the US, was made available to American consumers on YouTube and Google's Play app for Android devices on Wednesday in an unprecedented online debut following a cyber attack blamed on North Korea.

The movie, starring Hollywood actors Seth Rogen and James Franco, depicts a CIA-sponsored attempt by a TV presenter Dave Skylark (Franco) and his producer and friend (Rogen), to kill the leader of North Korea.

In China, streaming versions of the movie have already been made available illegally by users of online forums.

The enormous publicity has made the movie one of the highest-rated films on IMDb, an Internet movie database, at 9.4 out of 10 possible points following 52,809 votes.

Enthusiastic Chinese online users have also been active in joining the global discussion, with some on Douban, a popular online forum, calling on fellow Net users to join in the hype initiated on IMDB and give the movie a five-star rating. 

The movie's use of a song by Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou was a surprise for many Chinese Net users.

Some criticized North Korea for lacking a sense of humor, saying the release of the film was "act of justice."

Others, however, are not buying into the hype around the film, describing it as a low-quality movie that has managed to attract attention by using Kim as a successful publicity stunt.

People's anticipation of the movie has far outstripped what it is capable of delivering, others said.

"It could be both Hollywood and human civilization's last movie. The comedy may trigger the third World War," said one online user, suggesting that North Korea might threaten a nuclear attack.

The movie and its immense popularity will only be short-lived bubble, said Zhang Yiwu, a cultural critic and professor at Peking University.

But it does reflect Western society's long-standing distorted view of North Korea, the result of a lack of understanding of the country, he told the Global Times.

"Like the rest of the world, most of our knowledge about North Korea comes from Western media. As Western ideologies continue to penetrate Chinese society, Chinese online users may become unknowingly influenced by the movie, hence accepting the Western view of North Korea," Zhang told the Global Times. 

His opinion is shared by Lü Chao, a professor with the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, who told the Global Times that Chinese viewers who support the movie are failing to take a critical perspective.

Lü also warned that the light-hearted comedy could cause serious diplomatic consequences if the row between the US and North Korea escalates.

The cyber spat may translate into devastating impact on the stability of the Korean Peninsula, said Lü, as lampooning the country's supreme leader is a serious crime in North Korea, and could lead to attempts at retaliation.

"China has already been unwillingly dragged into the conflict by US media alleging that North Korea's hackers were based in China," he said.

The movie prompted the most destructive-ever cyber attack on a company on US soil one month ago, resulting in the release of embarrassing e-mails and confidential data.

US President Barack Obama last week blamed the cyber attacks on North Korea and joined a chorus of politicians and top Hollywood figures accusing Sony of self-censorship and caving into hackers' demands following the studio's decision not to release the film.

The US has blamed Pyongyang for the hacking attack and has asked China to identify any North Korea hackers operating in China and, if found, to send them back to North Korea.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Tuesday urged all parties to demonstrate restraint. 

"The situation on the Korean Peninsula is still complex and sensitive. We hope that members of the Security Council and relevant parties can put more weight on promoting denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and safeguarding peace and stability of the Peninsula, take action conducive to easing the situation, and refrain from any words or actions that may escalate tensions," Hua said.

Agencies contributed to this story

Newspaper headline: The Interview a hit in China

Posted in: Society

blog comments powered by Disqus