North Korea’s Troll Army? The Sinophone Internet Debate Over Kim Jong Un’s On-Site Inspection
In the endeavor to follow news coming out of Pyongyang since January 1, it has been occasionally difficult to follow Chinese news threads about Kim Jong Un. Something suprising appears to be happening on the Chinese internet in the Kim Jong Un era, at least on the Huanqiu Shibao/Global Times comment boards, which, associated with the PRC’s leading mass foreign affairs tabloid, are some of the rather more important controlled spaces for public speech about North Korea. What is the suprise? We are seeing a great deal more comments from North Korean netizens. It’s unclear if they are commenting from within North Korea or inside of China, but the comments appear to be coming in greater numbers than in the past, begging the question: even if North Korea becomes more high tech, and more fluent in Chinese, does that all necessarily lead ipso facto to reform and opening up? Moreover, are North Korea’s propagandists taking matters into their own hands, recognizing that Chinese web controls will never lend full-throated defense of their new leader? These are questions upon which we here at SinoNK.com will be keeping an eye.
Functioning as Exhibit A are the comments appended to today’s Huanqiu Shibao run of North Korean photographs of Kim Jong Un’s on-site inspection of an air-force unit. The whole series can be seen by clicking on the image below:
The comments that follow are in direct translation, and, for reasons of time, appear in reverse order, as they do on the Huanqiu site. (Which is to say that there is some PG-13 language therein.) What is so interesting is that there are really three distinctive types of voices which emerge in the following example:
1. North Korean netizen comments, completely taking the DPRK government line;
2. Chinese “50-cent Party” comments, seeking to “channel public opinion” about North Korea along CCP-friendly lines;
3. Chinese netizen comments, largely dismissive and insulting.
About 50 of the 80 comments are translated here; about 10 comments were repeats. Rather than color-code the comments in line with the three perspectives laid out above, it is assumed that the reader can judge for him or herself the perspective employed. Entries in bold are of particular interest. Any editorial comments by me follow the comment in bracketed italics. So, without further ado:
敬祝朝鲜人民在伟大的金正恩将军领导下，早日喝上排骨汤，穿上绫罗绸缎/I wish that under the leadership of the the great Kim Jong Un, the North Korean people will, at a day very soon, have meat soup and wear silk clothes.
作为中国人，我也崇拜伟大的金正日 As a Chinese person, I also worship the great Kim Jong Il.
美国无耻，封锁这样穷国 America has no shame to keep such a poor country closed.
飞机太落后了。The airplanes are way too backward.
去了朝鲜,发觉朝鲜人很纯洁,没有利益纷争,没有仇恨,朝鲜人比中国人团结多了,邻居之间很和谐 I went to North Korea, found I feel that North Korean people are very pure and honest [纯洁], not trying to benefit from disputes, not at all hateful. North Korean people are more united than Chinese people, as neighbors, their space is very harmonious. [The characterization of North Koreans as “pure and honest” follows directly in line with CCP-sponsored characterizations of Tibetans for Han audiences in films such as “Love Song of Kangding.”]
慈父金正日永远与我们同在 The compassionate father Kim Jong Il will eternally be with us.
哈哈狗日的金鬼 Ha ha; dog-spawned devil Kim.
一个脑死亡的国家！A brain-dead country!
朝鲜，一个充满欺骗的国家！North Korea, a country completely full of self-deception!
shenmajibadongxi! // What a dick! [Comment in pinyin so as to avoid censorship.]
牢牢牵住正恩手，加官进禄定当首 Under the steady hand of Jong Un, promotions and pay raises will surely occur. [This comment is in rhymed verse.]
脱北的人越来越多了。There are more and more defectors.
把自己的国人整的傻了吧唧的，一个行尸走肉的民族！[These] people are completely stupid about their own country, a walking corpse of a people!
我是个生活在中国底层的中国百姓，希望我的国家能有所作为，援助朝鲜足够的大米、粮食，因为现在朝鲜迫切需要粮食。My own life is one of a lower-level Chinese commoner; I hope that my country can help North Korea to have enough rice and grain because now North Korea completely lacks grain. [The image that this particular comment evokes — that of a Chinese peasant texting in a message of support for the DPRK via a mobile phone in his farm field — is a perfect example of the CCP and DPRK’s updating of their revolutionary and Korean War-era traditional propaganda; it is old wine in new bottles.]
金正恩将军有伟人风采,与战士亲密无间 General Kim Jong Un is a great talent, he is a close friend to the soldiers.
有那么夸张吗？Is there some exaggeration here?
没有金氏皇族、世界会倒退、Without the Kim imperial race, the whole world would be gone.
金正恩将军有伟人风采，思密达 General Kim Jong Un is a great talent, simida! [The final exclamation, simida, appears to be a standard fake Korean phrase used by Chinese netizens to mock the Korean language; making this comment ironic.
North Korean net phrase? Reader clarification would be appreciated.]
肚大头大手大 Big belly, big head, big hands.
在我看来，金正恩同志是一位关心民生，重视部队建设，并爱好和平的领导者。金正恩同志是朝鲜民族的希望。In my view, Comrade Kim Jong Un is a person who pays close attention to the people’s livelihood, attaching great importance to military construction, a leader who loves peace. Comrade Kim Jong Un is the hope of the Korean race.
事必躬亲呀!不过这美帝靶机看着让人心酸.He attends to everything personally! However, the American imperialist target drones must give this person heartburn.
see this, it must give them heartburn.
这里居然能评论。。网易关于朝鲜的都是关评的。I’m surprised I can comment here… All the online comment boards about North Korea are closely managed.
越来越有领导风范了啊，呵呵，一笑而过。。。。。。。。。。。。[In response to the comment “He has more and more the style of a leader”] Ah…cough cough, I’m smiling about that.
哈哈一群神马玩意 Ha Ha! A crowd looking at a trick pony. [E.g., the whole thing is a false spectacle.]
环球网是中国的还是朝鲜的 Is the Huanqiu website China’s, or is it North Korea’s?
朝鲜间谍占领了环球了吗 Have North Korean spies occupied Huanqiu?
金正恩加油。做人要做这样的人。这就叫骨气。吊还没懂尼。肯定不知到何为骨气。[In response to comment “You go, Kim Jong Un! Everyone should be like this person.”] This is what can be called integrity. [Some people] haven’t lamented [about the death of Kim Jong Il]. It has got to be because they don’t understand any kind of integrity.
懂个吊 ———-是得先把你那吊弄懂了 你再滚出来 [In response to previous comment] Right, but first take your lament and, again, get the hell out of here.
懂个吊 Understand the laments.
飞行员同志见到亲爱的金正恩同志，就像见到了慈父金正日一样！！！ When the comrade fighter pilots look upon comrade Kim Jong Un, they see that he looks like his compassionate father Kim Jong Il!!!
和蔼可亲的金正恩同志万岁，万万岁！！！！ Closely following Comrade Kim Jong Un, Long Live, Long Long Live [Kim Jong Un]!!!
请金正恩同志注意身体健康，祖国需要您！！ Please pay heed to your health, Comrade Kim Jong Un, your motherland needs you!!!
为美军捐款，敦促其尽早空袭平壤！！！———先把你这个狗卖给菲律宾当佣人 [In response to the comment “In order to waste America’s military budget, please hasten them to bomb Pyongyang as soon as possible!”] First send this dog-reader to the Philippines where he can become a servant.
指导训练??? Leading drills???
请文明上网、理性发言！Please surf the web in a civilized way, comment reasonably! [Automated message placed on board when a comment is deleted.]
In order to waste We should donate money to the American military, please hasten them to bomb Pyongyang as soon as possible!
寒酸的飞机，也难怪飞行员同志很委屈 Wretched airplanes, and no wonder comrade pilots feel aggrieved [Likely reference to North Korean pilot attempted defection/crash near Shenyang, August 2010, reported on from Liaoning at the time by SinoNK.com editor here.]
真能人也，，一个小毛孩，一天兵未当，能懂陆、海、空！祝朝鲜又出了个“伟大领袖”！Is it possible that there could be just an inexperienced kid
a person who is also a child of Mao, who after one day could understand the Marines, the Navy, the Air Force? I wish that North Korea could produce yet another ‘Great Leader’ [Using the leader phrase associated with Mao]!
金正恩真帅啊！Kim Jong Un is truly handsome!
原来人虚伪起来可以如此无敌 社会主义国家果然善于培养人才 It used to be that a person could see things like this without stating opposition. Socialist countries really build up people’s talents.
金正恩可以给北朝鲜人民送去塑料芒果了，他们也都会热泪盈眶的。If Kim Jong Un could give the North Korean people plastic mangoes, their eyes would brim with tears of excitement.
把你爹废了很高兴是吧~ Makes his wastrel father very happy.
本山的忽悠功夫比金家差的太远，惭愧吧。[Comedian] Zhao Benshan’s kung-fu con act is about as funny as this; [they should] be ashamed.
貌似比乃父忠厚些…..His look is much more generous than that of his father…
切切实实的把人民群众的生活水平搞上去，别再搞世袭制亲爱的接班人还有这能耐呢，知道飞行员训练？！Practically, if the living standard of the masses is being raised, then don’t again go in for the hereditary succession system; even if he does have talent, does he really know how to drill the air force?
小屁孩，真他妈的悲剧 Shitty little kid, truly a motherfucking tragedy.
金正恩加油 做人的要做这样的人 You go, Kim Jong Un! Everyone should be like this person.
一点都没变 [North Korea] didn’t change, not one little bit.
大过年的能不能别上他的新闻 It’s the big New Year, is it possible not to show his news?
头型真好。The shape of his head is really nice.
长的比李明博大方 He will be around longer than [South Korean President] Lee Myung Bak.
金正恩一看就有正义感的人.而李明博小眼子八拉,一看就是下三烂之流! Just one look at Kim Jong Un and you can feel that he is a person of justice. Lee Myung Bak, on the other hand, has slanted eyes and looks like a dispicable bum, lowly hooligan!
tells you he is like mush that will soon be swept away [unclear idiom; reader comments welcome].
看多真成率真脸庞,是个大福大贵之人! Seeing that his face is truly that of a leader, [one can believe that] this is a man of great luck and class!
他这笑容还真有媚丽! His smile here is truly charmingly beautiful!
真有领袖的范!不错这孩子! He really has the look of leader! This kid is not bad!
— Translations by Adam Cathcart
R.J. Koehler, “So you wanted to meet some REAL pro-North Korean netizens, eh?” The Marmot’s Hole, November 29, 2011.
Wikipedia, “50-Cent Party,” updated January 21, 2012.
Joshua Kopstein, “Kim Jong Il was an ‘Internet Expert’,” Mother Board, December 19, 2011.