If you’ve spent 2013 in a coma and the first thing you need to be briefed about is the state of North Korea, you’ve clicked the right link.
In chronological order, we’ve selected the imagery that best represents North Korea’s 2013.
1. Soldier vigorously gesticulating in front of missile no one’s even sure can make it off the ground
North Korea rang in the new year by promising to nuke the world and then reneging on that promise. Eager to continue their momentum from ending 2012 with surprise missile launch, the fresh-faced Kim Jong-Un blasted the West for holding down North Korea, popped off a nuke, and launched heavy rhetoric about nuclear strike capabilities.
2. People going absolutely bonkers as Kim Jong-Un visits their island in a …
3. … rickety old rowboat
Nothing says thorough iron-fisted dictatorship like the faces of those three people. In 2013, North Koreans still live in a world of military and media control. People who don’t greet “Dear Leader” with enthusiasm may even get hauled off.
The boat is just a hint of the state of the North Korean Navy.
4. Dennis Rodman visits Kim right in the middle of all that missile bluster
How’s this for a little hiatus: Rodman takes a break from waning stardom and Kim takes a break from threatening nuclear holocaust and both get together to watch a little b-ball.
Rodman calls Kim a “friend,” people start calling it basketball diplomacy. Meanwhile, word is that Kim wanted Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, but settled for Rodman.
5. The Logitech mouse affair
The thing about North Korea’s threats: analysts and experts think the North’s missile capability hovers at about a 50/50 success rate. As if to embody the lack of cutting edge technology needed for missile tech, Kim poses in front of a computer that looks like it belongs on the set of the original Lost In Space.
6. The doctored “strike plan” images
Here, Pyongyang released an image of Kim going over “strike plans.” Posted conveniently behind him was a map showing supposed targets inside the U.S. (including, strangely, Austin, Texas).
7. The dancing and singing rocket on a popular North Korea kid show
North Korea boasts about its missile programs because they represent the last best hope at threatening the rest of the world.
In order to instill the same confidence (misplaced or not) in the populace, propagandists used a dancing, smiling Taepo-Dong II rocket.
8. “Heroic” South Korean flees as North Korea withdraws from shared industrial zone
The experts watching North Korea’s threats closely quipped that Kim wasn’t serious unless he closed the Kaesong industrial zone. Then he closed Kaesong.
The zone was important for two reasons: it represented a shared interest for both countries, and it sent money directly into the pockets of those running the North Korean government.
9. Angry North Korean soldier kicks goat
North Korea gears up its military as the rest of the country starves. Experts note that many soldiers called into active duty are expected to help with 2013’s harvest. Pyongyang simply cannot do both.
In the end, they launch a bunch of “short-range” missiles (essentially ground-based cruise missiles) and cool off.
10. Kim Jong-Un attends opening of “Rungna People’s Pleasure Ground”
North Korea’s opening of the “pleasure zone” punctuates a relatively quiet summer. The park is another bizarre twist in a country riddled with drugs, starvation, and prostitution. Part propaganda, part distraction, Pyongyang followed the roller coasters up with a “creepy” water park.
11. Kim inspects smartphone factory
Not to be outdone by … every other modern country … North Korea enters the smartphone game. But wait: Reports surface that it could all be fake, as the devices “were likely built in China and shipped to the facility Kim Jong-Un visited.”
12. Pyongyang shows off farming equipment at military parade
Nothing says military might like 2nd-rate John Deere rip-offs towing Vietnam-era missile systems. The 65th Anniversary military parade came in the wake of announcements that Kim had his ex-girlfriend executed for appearing in a porn video.
13. Kim’s uncle hauled before judge (later executed)
North Korea rounds out 2013 with a good ol’ fashioned execution. Kim has fingered his uncle — a top-level military man — as a conspirator in a possible coup. Think tanks and military exercises have been frightfully imagining a collapsed North Korean government all year.
Bonus: Kim Jong-Un laughing at squid bricks
It’s probable that he’s just laughing at the novelty of so many squid stored in such a way, but also telling. Reports of starvation, instability, and drug trafficking dominate headlines about North Korea.
The walls of squid though, those look pretty stable.
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