Sony pulled the plug on the North Korea-mocking movie, “The Interview,” on Dec. 17. The film was set to release on Dec. 25.
The decision was made a day after a hacking group called Guardians of Peace (GOP), which claims to be responsible for the hacks, threatened to attack theatres showing the movie.
But on the same day the movie was pulled — Dec. 17 — North Koreans were observing the end of a three-year mourning period of their late leader Kim Jong Il, the father of Kim Jong-un.
Traditionally, North Koreans observe the death of a parent for two years. But South Korean TV broadcaster KBS says North Korea extended the official mourning period to three years out of respect for their “national hero.”
This year’s official mourning ceremony was more special than others. It took place at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, the public square where the mausoleum for Kim Jong Il and his father Kim Il-sung is. It was held indoors the last two years.
North Korean TVs showed the mourning ceremony all day. No alcohol drinking or excessive entertainment activity were allowed for days.
In other words, it was a big day in North Korea. And a very sensitive time.
So what does this all mean?
Sony, at the outset, may not have picked a great time to release a movie making fun of North Korea.
In fact, leading up to the three-year mourning period, the North Korean government is reported to have doubled down on all kinds of security measures, according to Radio Free Asia. That includes banning any type of travels, bringing back most overseas government officials, and tracking mobile phones to spot any illegal calls.
RFA also recently said many North Korean expats have started to carry two mobile phones because they’re afraid the North Korean government might be tapping into their calls. All expats are required to register their phones with the government, and if any of those phones were found to have messenger apps like Kakao Talk or WeChat, they would get arrested for suspicious activity, it says.
KBS says North Korean press had hyped up the Dec. 17 ceremony for months to make it look like the official start of the “Kim Jong-un Era.” The reason they had the ceremony outdoors was also to show the world that Kim Jong-un has finally arrived, it says.
Still, it’s hard to say there’s any real evidence correlating the two events. But it’s also not hard to see why North Korea was so ticked off by the movie. Does that justify the hacking, which may or may not have been perpetrated by North Korea? Absolutely not. But would that have led to the Sony hacking? Who knows?
Here are some photos of North Koreans bowing on the street on Dec. 17 to show respect to Kim Jong Il: