North Korean ad campaign spurns Superbowl

February 6, 2013 6:00 AM

Unable to afford Superbowl ad rates, North Korea went the El Cheapo route, uploading an internet ad for one of its traditional products, “Belligerence.” Or at least that’s what the “North Korea taunts US with weird video” headlines would lead you to believe, but what’s really going on here?

First, of all the ad is in Korean—a language that few Americans speak.  Which makes one wonder who the target audience is. And if the ad really is aimed at Americans, whoever hired that ad agency ought to be fired.

Next question—what’s that Canon—Japanese—camera doing in the foreground? No North Korean models available?

And while the ad does feature footage of the Unha-3, that spaceship zipping around looks sort of like the space shuttle which moves this ad from intimidating propaganda to pure adolescent fantasy.

So to better understand what is going on, we consulted famed expert on semiotics Dan Marcus to deconstruct the North Korean ad campaign.  Dan, what do you make of this thing?

“Modern tyrannies tend to have a taste for the grandly insipid, so there is no better choice for the soundtrack than an instrumental "We Are the World."

Next, the rather hilarious juxtaposition between the eco-friendly, peace-loving tone and the sudden burst of militarism vs. the US, or rather the  the fires that the US brings upon itself. The combination denotes the multiple uses of space technology - we are planning this for peaceful purposes, but don't mess with us.

The issue of audience is the most interesting angle. If this is for internal consumption, I wonder how images of traveling freely through space and across the globe are taken up by viewers whose access to travel is so heavily circumscribed. Perhaps they are supposed to feel "It is OK for us to be stuck here, because our rockets can go anywhere." Space thus becomes a realm of freedom, a fantasy dream-space where institutional (in this case, national) loyalty and identity remains but rules and restrictions are suspended. Kinda like the Christian heaven.

Oh, and the North Koreans don’t appear to be big on respecting the rights of property as enforced by copyright, as Disney already knows.”

The final word goes to Don Lee who helped out with the translation.  “As you all may know, "uriminzokkiri" is the internet propaganda media site that belongs to the Committee for the Peaceful Unification of the Fatherland under the NK Worker's Party aimed at South Korea.”

Oh. So maybe that's why they're waving those Korean unification flags.

Oh, and maybe that's why they are immolating those Yankee impediments to unification.

Mystery solved, case closed.




Don Lee

One of the Youtube links still alive:


Thanks Don,
I've added the Youtube video to the bottom of the post.

Peter Hayes

It wasn't aired domestically, only for external audiences.


Re: "grandly insipid"
Maybe in the eyes of Noland (space)!
It looks quite a grand, colorful PR.
Perhaps, it was made for SK audiences.
That's why there is no English text.


From DPRK perspective, there is no difference between their vid and the US movie "Red Dawn" ( ? We think ours is a movie about the US fighting for its freedom. They are mimicking the US.

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