Reuters on North Korean Comedy

I might be missing something, but there seems to be a singularly poor (and misleading) juxtaposition in this Reuters piece (which has been picked up in various places, such as here):

A comedy show on North Korean TV has the distinction of being one of the longest-running in the world, although there’s very little that’s actually funny in it.

Following are some jokes from North Korean defectors compiled by Radio Free Asia, a U.S.-government affiliated broadcaster for the region (

* An Englishman, a Frenchman, and a North Korean are having a chat. The Englishman says: “I feel happiest when I’m at home, my wool pants on, sitting in front of the fireplace.”

The Frenchman, a ladies’ man, says: “You English people are so conventional. I feel happiest when I go to a Mediterranean beach with a beautiful blonde-haired woman, and we do what we’ve got to do on the way back.”

The North Korean man says: “In the middle of the night, the secret police knock on the door, shouting: Kang Sung-Mee, you’re under arrest! And I say, Kang Sung-Mee doesn’t live here, but right next door! That’s when we’re happiest!” …

Maybe it’s just me, but I first read the first two paragraphs to mean that the quoted jokes are from the North Korean TV show. But as best I can tell, they’re not (and they can’t be, since I highly doubt such obviously anti-government humor would be tolerated in North Korea). As the original Radio Free Asia story suggests, and as the second paragraph — read alone — states, these are jokes that (1) apparently circulate by word of mouth within North Korea, (2) were gathered by Radio Free Asia from defectors, and (3) were then broadcast into North Korea by Radio Free Asia. They also are indeed funny; you should check out the whole list.

But the long-running TV show mentioned in the first paragraph is something very different; my guess is that it’s It’s So Funny, the subject of this other Reuters story, with jokes such as this:

The latest version that came out in the past week extolled the virtue of beans, while avoiding any flatulence humor.

It opened with the man soldier saying to the woman soldier he feels better and looks more handsome because he has been taking medicine made from beans.

“If we soldiers see beans, we become happy,” he said and laughs. “If we farm in the way the General tells us, we will become happy,” she said and laughs.

So while the first paragraph of the Reuters story I started with is talking about one show, the rest is talking about a completely different one, with no transition or anything else to indicate the shift. Thanks to GeekPress for the pointer.