Tuesday, August 9

See the D-P-R-K! . . . In your Chev-ro-let!

A couple years ago, somebody passed along to me a link to the official Web site of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea -- that'd be the more Northern of the two Koreas, the socialist one ruled by the guy who thinks he's god and stuff. In the blog I was contributing to at the time, I described it as what you might see on "The Simpsons" if Homer decided the family was going on vacation to North Korea and wanted to learn more about it on the Web; it was one of those fascinating little moments of complete sincerity coupled with complete bat-poop-craziness.

Apparently someone in Kim Jong Il's administration thought it was a little dated-looking, however. Courtesy a (really hilarious) post by Matt Lavine last week, I found that the DPRK has really sexed up its Web site in an apparent effort to convince outside visitors that the country is not, in fact, mired in deplorable oppression and unrelenting poverty. Naw, it's actually great over there!

In the Korean News section, you can read this press release in which North Koreans are said to be ecstatically thankful to the late Kim Il Sung for giving "rebirth to the people who had been subjected to the mediaeval tyranny, backbreaking labor and maltreatment, deprived of their country by the Japanese imperialists." Yeah, why outsource your mediaeval tyranny and backbreaking labor and maltreatment when your own people can do it cheaper? Here you can read the biography of Kim Jong Il -- completely factual and unbiased, no doubt -- and at the bottom of the main page you can read a folk tale about "Hwang the Stubborn from Pyongyang."

The thing is, the site is actually fairly clean and well designed, and the Webmasters have done a surprisingly good job of making the DPRK look like it's all sunshine and puppy dogs over there. But then you get to the section of Kim Jong Il's "anecdotes" and you can read thrilling stories about how Kim personally made the sun come out in Russia one time and how he has the "extraordinary insight" to know the proper temperature for sterilizing vegetables. It's kind of like chatting up a girl at a bar who looks reasonably cute and fun, and only after you've been talking for 30 or 45 minutes does she mention that she worships a deity who returns to Earth every 20 years in the form of an albino cockroach.

Anyway, if you want to put North Korea on your list of travel destinations, you can peep the airline timetable here. You go first.

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