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North Korea finds place in pop culture

by DERRIK J. LANG AP Entertainment Writer on June 28, 2014 10:50 AM

North Korea’s foreign ministry is declaring that the upcoming release of “The Interview,” a comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco as a talk show twosome recruited to assassinate Kim Jong Un, would be an act of war. This is not the first time the nation’s leadership has been poked at in pop culture. Some examples:

• “Die Another Day”: At the beginning of this 2002 installment of the 007 series, James Bond is captured by North Korean forces. After his release, he pursues a North Korean terrorist (played by Rick Yune) across the globe. At the time, North Korea’s state-run news agency called the movie “a dirty and cursed burlesque aimed to slander.”

• “Team America: World Police”: This 2004 farcical marionette musical from the “South Park” creators featured a puppet Kim Jong Il (voiced by Trey Parker) as a lonely bad guy. The “Dear Leader” croons about his pain in an equally painful broken English ditty.

• “MADtv”: Throughout his tenure on the Fox sketch comedy series, Bobby Lee would pop up as Kim Jong Il in parodies of dating shows and music videos. Lee most notably appeared as the leader in “The Kim Jong Il Show,” where the talk show host dictator would fire missiles from behind his desk and shoot audience members who didn’t laugh.

• “30 Rock”: Margaret Cho impersonated Kim Jong Il in the fifth and sixth seasons of the NBC comedy series. The comedienne was nominated for an Emmy for the part, a zany rendition of the dictator who moonlights as a weatherman, delivering the forecast: “North Korea, everything sunny all the time, always, good time, beach party.”

• “Red Dawn”: Chris Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson played teenagers who combated invading North Korean forces in Spokane, Wash. The adversaries in this 2012 remake of the 1984 film weren’t always North Korean. They were changed from Chinese in post-production for fear of offending China and its important movie-going market. Hollywood movies aren’t generally distributed in North Korea.

• “Olympus Has Fallen”: In this 2013 action film, a band of North Korean terrorists (once again led by Rick Yune) swiftly capture the White House and kidnap the president in hopes of compelling the U.S. to withdraw military forces from the Korean peninsula. The guerillas’ plan is foiled by a burly secret service agent played by Gerard Butler.

• “Glorious Leader!”: While popular shoot-’em-up video games like “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon 2” and “Homefront” have cast North Korea as the adversary, this retro-style run-and-gun game set for release later this year flips the script. Players portray a unicorn- and narwhal-riding Kim Jong Un, who must battle waves of “American imperialist hordes.”

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