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A Brief History Of North Korea's Bizarre Relationship With American Entertainment

'The Interview' wasn't the first bit of Hollywood to captivate the nation.

Yesterday (December 17), a James Franco and Seth Rogen movie somehow became one of the most important films in cinematic history, when "The Interview" was pulled by Sony Pictures after North Korean hackers threatened a 9/11-like terrorist response.

It's a shocking move from many angles -- for the first time ever, a dictatorship has effectively censored Hollywood -- but when you look back at the North Korean propaganda machine over the years, it's really not that surprising that the supreme leader Kim Jong-Un's people responded to the film in this way.

Here are some of the major moments in North Korea's up-and-down history with American media:

  1. Kim Jong-Il loved the movies.
    AFP

    One of the most peculiar facts about Jong-Un's father, Kim Jong-Il, was his all-encompassing love for cinema. The despot claimed to own over 20,000 DVDs -- more than the cinema studies major in your freshman dorm -- with Elizabeth Taylor, "Friday the 13th," and James Bond movies being some of his noted favorites.

    In fact, according to BBC, Jong-Il screened "Bend it Like Beckham" for 12,000 people at the Pyongyang Film Festival in 2004, and thought that "Amistad" was "very sad." (No word on whether Jong-Il shipped Jonathan Rhys Meyers with Parminder Nagra or Keira Knightley.)

  2. Kim Jong-Il loved the movies so much he committed a serious crime.

    In 1978, long before he took over for his father Kim Il Sung or began writing essays on cinema, Jong-Il kidnapped a South Korean film director, Shin Sang-ok. He was kept in a prison for years on a diet of salt, grass and rice, and eventually released -- but forced to make movies (along with his wife) for North Korea.

    These propaganda-style films are what most North Koreans consume, though -- as noted above -- 12,000 of them have seen "Bend it Like Beckham," and Jong-Il has seen, like, all of them.

  3. Kim Jong-il didn't love being in the movies.

    Jong-Il was famously parodied in the 2004 Trey Parker and Matt Stone puppet-comedy "Team America: World Police." Like his son, Jong-Il was killed (and revealed to be an alien cockroach) in the film, but -- perhaps due to his age and reclining heath -- Jong-Il himself never publicly commented on the matter.

    However, North Korea did ask the Czech Republic to ban the film. The Czech Republic declined.

  4. Kim Jong-Un prefers sports -- especially Dennis Rodman.
    Getty

    Kim Jong-Un, who came to power after his father's death in 2011, has not publicly spoken about a love for western movies like his father did, though the North Korean film industry set by Jong-Il (and kidnapping) still exists. Propaganda films starring evil westerners and heroic North Koreans are still the norm, though the same can obviously be said of the reverse.

    However, Jong-Un does have some relationship with the media, with the most notable incident -- before now -- being his strange friendship with NBA star Dennis Rodman, which was ignited when Rodman visited North Korea for a basketball game in 2013. (Little Kim is a huge fan of basketball, with his school friends telling the Washington Post that he used to spend hours doing "meticulous pencil drawings" of Michael Jordan.)

    Rodman became a huge fan of Kim, eventually calling him his "best friend" at Kim's birthday party, and returning for a private visit.

  5. Kim Jong-Un is a master manipulator.

    One of the major plot points of "The Interview" involves Kim (Randall Park) dazzling James Franco's character Dave Skylark, in a nearly direct parody of what happened with Rodman.

    In the film, Kim's people show Skylark fake grocery stores, but in real life, while Rodman was doing his buddy-buddy stuff, the Vice film crew was shown shopping malls with no shoppers, gyms with treadmills reportedly designed by Kim, and a classroom of children using the Internet -- except they weren't actually using it, they were all just staring at one, static page.

    Creepy.