Shock video: North Korean state TV admits missile launch failed

posted at 6:01 pm on April 13, 2012 by Allahpundit

Ed mentioned this earlier but after watching the clip at the Telegraph this morning I still can’t get over it. Rule one of totalitarian propaganda: The state is all-powerful and unerring. Resistance is utterly futile. The more captive citizens believe that, the less the regime has to worry about a revolt. Point being, this sort of admission should never, ever happen — yet here it is. How come? The Journal speculates that because the NorKs invited several dozen foreign journalists to report on the launch (which they weren’t allowed to personally witness), they felt obliged to ‘fess up publicly. But I don’t quite follow that logic. Who cares if reporters from other countries were going to go home and write it up as an epic fail? What’s important is what the locals think, and the locals will be carefully shielded from those stories.

So what gives? Let me float two theories, one highly implausible yet entertaining and the other more plausible and intriguing. Highly implausible yet entertaining: Maybe there really is a quiet power struggle going on at the top in the aftermath of Kim Jong-un’s succession and somehow one of the factions managed to get this onto state TV to embarrass the other. Can’t bring myself to believe that, though. If the rift was so deep that the regime had actually lost control of the information being transmitted on its own state TV mouthpiece, it would mean chaos behind the scenes. Surely there’d be other signs of it besides this. Which means it’s onto theory two, the more plausible and intriguing: The regime suspects it’s lost its monopoly of information inside the country due to radio broadcasts or other media from China and South Korea filtering in. They know the public — or a good chunk of it — is going to find out from outside media that the missile failed, which means they have two options. Either they can lie about it and lose credibility as North Koreans start to wonder about what other lies they’ve been told or they can tell the truth and preserve some of their credibility. They’re going to look weak either way as the news about the launch failure filters in; they might as well own it and try to maximize their retention of the people’s trust. The important point here, though, is that to force a confession like this the amount of foreign media now penetrating the country must be much bigger than we think. If that’s so, how long until the whole facade starts to crack? You can’t have a totalitarian state without total control.

While we’re on the subject of baffling behavior by North Korea (a big subject, I know), here’s another question to ponder: Why on earth did they build up this launch and then invite foreign reporters to witness it if they weren’t reasonably sure it’d succeed? And before you say “maybe they were reasonably sure,” read the following two posts at Danger Room arguing that not only do the NorKs not conduct missile “tests” in any meaningful sense of the term — they lack the money and the technical expertise — but they may actually be getting worse at launches. If you’re going to pop off a big missile as a show of strength to your citizen-captives and enemies abroad, you’d want to be awfully confident (a) that it’ll work and (b) that you can cover it up pretty well if it doesn’t. Their missile not only didn’t work, they didn’t even try to cover it up. This is how the new Kim “shows strength,” apparently. Bizarre.


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Actually is shocking!

Bmore on April 13, 2012 at 6:05 PM

“failed to reach its preset orbit”.

It failed by a long way; it blew up a minute after launch, didn’t it?

Steven Den Beste on April 13, 2012 at 6:06 PM

My comment last night must now be amended.

Bmore on April 13, 2012 at 6:07 PM

And Eastasia is at war with Oceania, but at peace with Eurasia.

Minitrue of the People’s Paradise of Korea.

Steve Z on April 13, 2012 at 6:07 PM

Hmmmmmmm……….perhaps, like the Obama administration, the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing – seeing as they don’t talk to each other.

Now for the BIGGER story. Will Obama withhold food?

GarandFan on April 13, 2012 at 6:08 PM

How can we be sure this isn’t just propaganda for the West? To make us think the people inside NK actually have been told.

Bmore on April 13, 2012 at 6:09 PM

Or… admitting failure could be used to root out opponents in the ensuing investigation. There is always a political calculation behind these announcements from the DPRK. They could also blame interference from the outside.

Expect more drama from the DPRK.

lexhamfox on April 13, 2012 at 6:10 PM

Look at the pretty painting behind her

pat on April 13, 2012 at 6:11 PM

They better hope the truth about the old story about what a wonderful golfer the Room Temperature Dear Leader was doesn’t leak in. Might be even more devastating to their control.

Bitter Clinger on April 13, 2012 at 6:11 PM

I mean maybe the NK propaganda machine thinks by showing that they have shared this with the population, that we will actually believe it was a Satellite. Cover?

Bmore on April 13, 2012 at 6:12 PM

“If you look back to their statements through history, they never say anything like this.”

They’re probably hungry and need to do something odd to get some food.

BobMbx on April 13, 2012 at 6:14 PM

Eric Holder please take note…

Oil Can on April 13, 2012 at 6:16 PM

How about hypothesis three:

We don’t know why YET.

Sherman1864 on April 13, 2012 at 6:16 PM

Don’t worry…

… There will be an update.


“Dear Leader reached out from the heavens in a show of force to our enemies as he destroyed the missle with just a stern look…

… He then returned to the heavens where he plays daily with the sun and the stars!”

(cue the patriotic music)

Seven Percent Solution on April 13, 2012 at 6:17 PM

“The satellite failed to reach its preset orbit. Thinking quickly, Dear Leader then changed the purpose of the launch. We are happy to report the missile landed just a few from its target area in the South China Sea. Military leaders are very pleased with the performance of the new Peoples Anti-Ocean Missile.”

BobMbx on April 13, 2012 at 6:18 PM

Glasnost? Perestroika?

VastRightWingConspirator on April 13, 2012 at 6:21 PM

I saw this part:

Scientists, technicians and experts are now looking into the cause of the failure.

But this was left out:

…and have discovered that the fuel pods contained a mixture of Johnnie Walker and Czechoslovakian beer.

OkieDoc on April 13, 2012 at 6:22 PM

..newscaster to people:

“..hey, you f**ked up; you trusted us, !”

The War Planner on April 13, 2012 at 6:26 PM

I am expecting a show trial in the very near future, “proving” that the evil West sabotaged the launch.

OldEnglish on April 13, 2012 at 6:29 PM

Did we shoot it down? Did the Japanese? Sabotage? If that is the case, it would make sense to say the launch failed. That’s the spin.

Mr. Arkadin on April 13, 2012 at 6:31 PM

NORKie media more honest than ours?

MeatHeadinCA on April 13, 2012 at 6:32 PM

I wonder how many guys got lined up and shot over this one.

Virus-X on April 13, 2012 at 6:41 PM

I’m…so…ronery…

MechanicalBill on April 13, 2012 at 6:42 PM

Related, just heard on Fox News that the NoKo army had to recently lower minimum height requirement to 4’9.” It’s getting severely desperate there.

I’m actually going with theory 1, and am waiting for the purges.

rbj on April 13, 2012 at 7:08 PM

While we’re on the subject of baffling behavior by North Korea

is there any other kind???

ted c on April 13, 2012 at 7:08 PM

Not to be a downer here, but the first stage worked. That’s what COMPAC,COCENCOM is looking at right now.(Commander Pacific, Commander Central Command.)

flackcatcher on April 13, 2012 at 7:10 PM

Well, it’s not as if they admitted it blew up. They really downplayed it, which means they are doing damage control.

keep the change on April 13, 2012 at 7:23 PM

Related, just heard on Fox News that the NoKo army had to recently lower minimum height requirement to 4’9.” It’s getting severely desperate there.

I’m actually going with theory 1, and am waiting for the purges.

rbj on April 13, 2012 at 7:08 PM

What is less obvious is the mental impairment that comes with such drastic malnutrition.

slickwillie2001 on April 13, 2012 at 7:44 PM

Another theory: Stuxnet, Duqu virus derivatives?

kurtzz3 on April 13, 2012 at 8:02 PM

I wonder how many guys got lined up and shot over this one.

Only the lucky ones with connections got shot.

Cicero43 on April 13, 2012 at 8:03 PM

Maybe that News Fembot was infected with the Stuxnet virus?

CoolCzech on April 13, 2012 at 8:23 PM

What they don’t show is the Anchor-ett getting a bullet to the head afterward.

Glenn Jericho on April 13, 2012 at 8:26 PM

I don’t understand a word of Korean but it’s interesting that one can still tell that the announcer/readers are being waaay over-dramatic in their presentation.

Dirt McGirt on April 13, 2012 at 8:32 PM

Wow, when did they get color TV in North Korea?

KillerKane on April 13, 2012 at 8:38 PM

Probably the explosion/crash was visible from land, rendering a coverup counter-productive. The word would get out about failure, and the lying bastards responsible.

exdeadhead on April 13, 2012 at 8:58 PM

How can we be sure this isn’t just propaganda for the West? To make us think the people inside NK actually have been told.

Bmore on April 13, 2012 at 6:09 PM

…could be there was only one news camera there…from NBC.

KOOLAID2 on April 13, 2012 at 9:45 PM

they lack the money and the technical expertise — but they may actually be getting worse at launches.

That’s what happens when you keep shooting the scientists, engineers, and technicians when something goes wrong. Pretty soon, you run out of competent scientists, engineers and technicians and get Kim Luk from down in receiving re-designing the staging clamps.

AZfederalist on April 13, 2012 at 10:37 PM

You know, those articles at Wired are pretty darned snarky and condescending toward people who actually take the defense of the US seriously. To the point that they really suck at reporting news. They are using “rocket experts” from global peace organizations as their technical journalistic experts. Really?

AZfederalist on April 13, 2012 at 10:44 PM

It would be absolutely awesome to see North Korea become a free society. Seriously. It’s tragic what’s been done to those people.

KMC1 on April 14, 2012 at 12:54 AM

Maybe – just maybe – there are those in the ruling class who know the good that comes from free societies. Maybe it’s even Kim Jong-Un himself, surely having been exposed to the West while growing upon his father’s house. Maybe with Kim Jong-Il gone, there will be more of these small shifts in North Korea towards truth and freedom for their citizens. What I think would be amazing is if Kim Jong-Un, young as he is, managed to usher North Korea into freedom during his rule. He could then have an opportunity to surpass his father in true greatness and becoming a genuinely loved and revered leader. What an amazing story THAT would be!

LeftCoastRefugee on April 14, 2012 at 8:59 AM

Kim hired hired Hilary Rosen as his new media strategist? Spectacular flame outs followed by incoherent public explination/apology/blamecasting are her specialty…

bitsy on April 14, 2012 at 10:53 AM

I’m…so…ronery…

MechanicalBill on April 13, 2012 at 6:42 PM

Arreck Barldwinnnnn!!!!!!

Anti_anti on April 14, 2012 at 11:00 AM

I think your 1st theory is closer to the truth. I’d say it’s possible, likely even, that all power hasn’t been consolidated in one leader/faction yet. Because open hostilities isn’t in any of the concerned parties interest, a lot of back stabbing is going on. Jong-un announced he was keeping a policy of military-first and was named Chairman of the National Defense Commission AFTER the disaster, supposedly “cementing” his position as “Supreme Leader” according to the London Telegraph. Could he have set the military up for this public failure in order to get this title? I suspect total control is still not a done deal.

cartooner on April 14, 2012 at 3:56 PM

This is why I was surprised they were making such a big deal out of a rocket launch in the first place; most first attempts at this sort of thing don’t go well on the first go-around, and it’s kinda hard to cover up something that goes off like a fireworks display in the sky..

Reaps on April 14, 2012 at 10:13 PM