North Korean Dear Leader/monster Kim Jong-Un is now requiring every man in the country to copy his exact haircut. The rule was reportedly introduced in Pyongyang two weeks ago. (Update: The original Radio Free Asia report on this policy was probably based on an uncorroborated rumor, the AP reports. Sources in Pyongyang say they haven't noticed any changes in hairstyle in the capital.)
The New York Times has a fascinating report about the story behind the execution of Kim Jong-un's uncle, Jang Song-thaek: According to the report, Kim ordered the death of Jang and his top lieutenants because of a dispute over North Korea's highly profitable clam and crab fishing grounds, which saw the North Korean military humiliated by Jang's loyalists.
When North Korea announced it had sentenced imprisoned American tour operator Kenneth Bae to 15 years hard labor earlier this month, it gave no details about his crime other than he had attempted to "overthrow" the North Korean government. But now North Korea has presented more details about Bae's crime: They say he smuggled anti-government propaganda into the country, and preached the overthrow of regime as part of a Christian missionary-backed plan called "Operation Jericho."
Following a joint South Korea-U.S. stealth bomber practice mission, North Korea announced that it's pointing its rockets at the U.S. and putting them on standby, and a state news photo seems to show its main targets: Hawaii, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and, uh... Austin. (Just a few weeks too late, Un!) NKNews.org points out that this photo, released in state media organ Rodong Sinmun, features a large map conspicuously labelled, "U.S. Mainland Strike Plan"; a close examination of the map shows vectors pointed toward Hawaii, D.C., L.A.... and, as far as anyone can tell, Austin.
Footage of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un inspecting a delirious troop of soldiers on the front line with South Korea was broadcast on state television on Friday following a belligerent exchange of threats between the two Koreas, which are still technically at war. "With their targets set, our intercontinental ballistic missiles and other missiles are on a standby, loaded with lighter, smaller and diversified nuclear warheads," North Korea's vice defense minister, Kang Pyo-yong, told a rally in Pyongyang. "If we push the button, they will blast off and their barrage will turn Washington, the stronghold of American imperialists and the nest of evil, and its followers, into a sea of fire." Experts don't think North Korea has perfected the technology necessary to place nuclear warheads on missiles; nevertheless, South Korea says if Pyongyang does attack with a nuke, Kim Jong-Un and his military "will be erased from the earth." North Korea cancelled its non-aggression agreements with South Korea yesterday after the U.N.—backed by China, Pyongyang's ally and largest trading partner—passed a resolution strengthening sanctions on the impoverished kingdom, but experts think Kim's belligerence is an attempt to consolidate power rather than a real threat.
There are a lot of surreal moments in this North Korean news report about Dennis Rodman's recent visit to the famine-ridden country. The first two and a half minutes or so is one long standing, cheering ovation for Kim Jong Un and his new best friend Dennis Rodman. Literally thousands of people, cheering non-stop. Then, of course, the report pans to three Harlem Globetrotters, who perform some basketball tricks for the still cheering crowd. That's followed by seven minutes of highlights from a not-very-impressive basketball game. The game ends with Kim Jong Un receiving his very own Globetrotters jersey, and then it's off to some sort State dinner for Un and Rodman and the hilariously still-in-uniform Globetrotters. There were also some very enthusiastic hugs between the new BFFs.
North Korea dropped a bomb underground yesterday, conducting its third successful nuclear test since 2006 and creating a small seismic event. The explosion was about twice as large as the last test, in 2009, though the bomb is thought to have been made with plutonium, and not the much scarier uranium. U.S. officials had been expecting such a test, and the president has already issued a statement condemning it—as has China, North Korea's only regional ally—though it likely won't stop North Korea from conducting a fourth test in the coming days. North Korean officials remain unbowed, literally: "The DPRK will never bow to any resolutions," a top diplomat told the Conference on Disarmament.
Today is January 8th, the 30th birthday of Kim Jong-un, North Korea's most powerful basketball enthusiast. Happy birthday big guy! North Korean news blog NKNews.org has taken the opportunity to introduce us to some of the ways in which brave North Korean people have been mocking Kim Jong-un in days leading up to his birthday. Apparently they're not super enthralled with the festivities, which have included such delights as "Street-Cleaning for the Leader's Birthday." Also, "compulsory apple-picking days"—the North Korean equivalent of a Chuck E. Cheese party.