Kim Jong Fun

North Korean state TV, in celebration of the birthday of their new overlord, aired a video collage of Kim Jong Un driving a tank, riding a horse, inspecting a factory, and hobnobbing with generals. The female announcer, her voice trembling in the ecstasies of praise, commends this "genius among geniuses" for his "excellent military leadership." ...

632260_funfair8958_2.jpg
632260_funfair8958_2.jpg

North Korean state TV, in celebration of the birthday of their new overlord, aired a video collage of Kim Jong Un driving a tank, riding a horse, inspecting a factory, and hobnobbing with generals. The female announcer, her voice trembling in the ecstasies of praise, commends this "genius among geniuses" for his "excellent military leadership."

Bizarrely, the video also shows the youngest Kim at an amusement park, seemingly enjoying himself as he prepares to be launched up to the top of a giant pole in a Tower of Doom ride.

North Korea has entered Juche 101, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung and the year that the country's propaganda claimed that it would bring "moderate prosperity" to its people. North Korea is still one of the poorest countries in the world, but the thinking seems to be that building a fun fair North Koreans can actually enjoy is a concrete example of what the Kims have done for the people.

North Korean state TV, in celebration of the birthday of their new overlord, aired a video collage of Kim Jong Un driving a tank, riding a horse, inspecting a factory, and hobnobbing with generals. The female announcer, her voice trembling in the ecstasies of praise, commends this "genius among geniuses" for his "excellent military leadership."

Bizarrely, the video also shows the youngest Kim at an amusement park, seemingly enjoying himself as he prepares to be launched up to the top of a giant pole in a Tower of Doom ride.

North Korea has entered Juche 101, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung and the year that the country’s propaganda claimed that it would bring "moderate prosperity" to its people. North Korea is still one of the poorest countries in the world, but the thinking seems to be that building a fun fair North Koreans can actually enjoy is a concrete example of what the Kims have done for the people.

On the last night of a September visit to the country, my guides announced with great pleasure that we would be visiting this amusement park. Pyongyang, with its tall, decrepit buildings, wide boulevards traversed by rotting trolleys, and citizens who seem to be still even when they’re moving, feels like a post-apocalyptic Detroit. Needless to say I had low expectations for the Ferris wheels of Pyongyang.

Boy was I wrong.

The park had brand new rides, allegedly and believably imported from Italy. The pirate-ship ride elicited shrieks from the North Koreans and the foreign tourists because it was a genuinely scary ride and not because we feared it would malfunction mid-swing and hurl us out of the park. North Koreans wandered around, taking pictures with their families, and munched on hamburgers in the park’s food stand. It was a shockingly normal experience, except that the guide to the park demanded that the dozens of North Koreans waiting in line for each attraction get out of the way so that we foreigners could ride first.

Leader of a functioning society he’s not, but at least Kim Jong Un can boast a great Superman ride.

Note: This is different from Pyongyang’s other amusement park on the foreign tourist circuit, the Mangyondae, which seems to be, like the University of Chicago, that fabled place where fun comes to die.

Isaac Stone Fish is a journalist and senior fellow at the Asia Society’s Center on U.S-China Relations. He was formerly the Asia editor at Foreign Policy Magazine. Twitter: @isaacstonefish

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