Writing off the video as simple goofballery ignores the fact that North Korea's volatility is a problem that still lacks a solution.
Update 2/6: The video has been taken down by YouTube after a copyright infringement notice was sent by Activision over the apparent use of footage from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.
North Korean propaganda has jumped its own shark. In what has to be its most insane video to date, a YouTube account linked to DPRK state media has published a video using early-90s vintage animation to simulate a space plane apparently bombing the United States in a 9/11-ish montage full of cartoon explosions. (Is it a nuke? It's impossible to tell, as it's a cartoon, but if you're declaring war on YouTube, might as well go nuclear.) Oh, and to make it really strange, it's all set up as a dream sequence while a karaoke MIDI version of "We Are the World" plays.
I just have so many questions. Why is it a dream sequence, and even if that makes sense (NoKo's dream is to take over the world, etc.), why is said dreamer a photographer with a clearly-displayed Canon (read: Japanese) camera? Why does the space plane zoom past the screen with the same sound effect a half-dozen times? What are the space sparkles at the 2:30 mark? Jokes aside, did North Korea really take to YouTube to threaten nuclear war just two months after it swore its rocket program is for purely scientific purposes?
While we may love to laugh at North Korea's antics, the video doesn't mess around. It's titled "Aboard the "galaxy" 9," which would presumably refer to a future model of the country's Unha (galaxy) line of rockets. (You can fairly rest assured that North Korea doesn't have space planes yet.) “Somewhere in the United States, black clouds of smoke are billowing,” one of the captions reads. “It seems that the nest of wickedness is ablaze with the fire started by itself.”
“Despite all kinds of attempts by imperialists to isolate and crush us … never will anyone be able to stop the people marching toward a final victory,” says the final caption. Never mind that North Korea only has itself to blame for isolation, those are fighting words.
This video really is the perfect summation of North Korea, the mysterious, saber-rattling nation. For a country with only a rudimentary Internet, North Korea has embraced the web as a diplomacy tool; as a country that's turned its "us against the world" schtick into an art form, it's put the incredible (and cost-effective) amplifying power of social media to use better than most others.
It's tough to peel back the layers of designed and unintentional humor here, but accidentally or not, Pyongyang has become extremely effective at repurposing the magic sauce of the viral web for its own threatening means. Did the producers of this video intentionally make it insane, knowing that would help it spread, or is this their vision of a serious propaganda flick? Honestly, it doesn't matter, as it's being successfully spread–and roundly picked apart–either way.
But don't let the medium fool you. Along with posting trollish dream sequences on YouTube, North Korea is pretty serious about a new nuclear test, which is a big middle finger to the UN Security Council and especially China, Pyongyang's one ally, which has signed off on stricter sanctions following the last rocket launch. North Korea is getting hot around the collar, and while it's amusing that it took to YouTube to rant about their grievances like a 14-year-old making angry faces over a stolen Megadeth track, writing off the video as simple goofballery ignores the fact that North Korea's volatility is a problem that still lacks a solution.
Update: Max Fisher at the Washington Post has a transcript of the subtitles via YouTube:
A long time the World disrespected us and laughed about our Leaders.
That time is over now. The moment of Revenge has come. We won’t forget or forgive. Evil begets evil.
We tried to convince South Korea but they won’t hear.
Since we have Nuclear Weapons the world won’t laugh anymore. It’s only a question of time …
All around the world, there will be massive explosions. It will be The Revenge.
With nobody to guide them the people will break out into panic. Our Great Leader “Kim Jong Eun the 21st” has wonderful plans for this world after all. [Max here: I'm not sure what "the 21st" refers to. Kim is the third in his family's line; his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, is depicted as the nation's founder. Maybe this is meant as a reference to 21st century?]
The World is absolutly unprepared, we will come like a thief in the night.
Global stability unravels. By the time the show is over it will be far too late.
Rejoyce, Korea, the End of the other Nations is near.
The Spirit of Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung is with us to guide us with Strong Hand. The End is near.
Hail to our great Leader. It will be paradise.
Not only a Dream.