The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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November 28, 2012

China's Communist Party paper falls for Onion joke about Kim

BEIJING —

The online version of China's Communist Party newspaper has hailed a report by The Onion naming North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un as the "Sexiest Man Alive" — apparently unaware it is satire.

The People's Daily ran a 55-page photo spread on its website Tuesday in a tribute to the round-faced leader, under the headline "North Korea's top leader named The Onion's Sexiest Man Alive for 2012."

Quoting The Onion's spoof report, the Chinese newspaper wrote, "With his devastatingly handsome, round face, his boyish charm, and his strong, sturdy frame, this Pyongyang-bred heartthrob is every woman's dream come true."

"Blessed with an air of power that masks an unmistakable cute, cuddly side, Kim made this newspaper's editorial board swoon with his impeccable fashion sense, chic short hairstyle, and, of course, that famous smile," the People's Daily cited The Onion as saying.

The photos the People's Daily selected include Kim on horseback squinting into the light and Kim waving toward a military parade. In other photos, he is wearing sunglasses and smiling, or touring a facility with his wife.

An online editor for the People's Daily said Wednesday that the photo spread would be taken offline.

"We have realized it is satirical," said the editor who works on the site's South Korea channel, one of the three channels where it was posted. He refused to give his name. When asked whether editors knew the Onion piece was satirical when the People's Daily item was first posted, he declined to clarify, but added that they picked up the news after first seeing it on China's state-run Guangming Daily website.

He said that he hoped the incident wouldn't draw too much attention.

The chief editor for the People's Daily English channel, where the story also ran, declined to comment. "I can't say anything yet," said the woman who would only give her surname Wang.

While the People's Daily item was still up, The Onion updated the story to post a link and add a postscript: "For more coverage on The Onion's Sexiest Man Alive 2012, Kim Jong-Un, please visit our friends at the People's Daily in China, a proud Communist subsidiary of The Onion, Inc.

"Exemplary reportage, comrades," The Onion wrote.

It is not the first time a state-run Chinese newspaper has fallen for a fictional report by the just-for-laughs The Onion.

In 2002, the Beijing Evening News, one of the capital city's biggest tabloids at the time, published as news the fictional account that the U.S. Congress wanted a new building and that it might leave Washington. The Onion article was a spoof of the way sports teams threaten to leave cities in order to get new stadiums.

Two months ago, Iran's semiofficial Fars news agency reprinted a story from The Onion about a supposed survey showing that most rural white Americans would rather vote for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than President Barack Obama. It included a quote from a fictional West Virginia resident saying he'd rather go to a baseball game with Ahmadinejad because "he takes national defense seriously."

 

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