The insane North Korean missile launch hype video

This clip captures not just the essence of North Korea but of the entire global geopolitical zeitgeist in 2022.

It’s ridiculous to the point of absurdity yet threatening to a terrifying degree. Like COVID and its attendant culture-war politics in the U.S. or Putin’s sub-moronic war in Ukraine, it feels too stupid to be real.


But it could also end up killing you before you know it.

Being a gentleman of a certain age, the cringy music and slo-mo take me back to my youth. This is what a B-movie (or straight-to-video) action flick looked and sounded like in the 1980s. Which makes sense, as that may be the most recent exposure an outfit as isolated as the North Korean leadership has had to American culture.

Either that or this level of production was all they could afford after having blown their budget on nuclear missiles.

You’re going to see the dictator himself whip off his sunglasses and stare at the camera as the missile launches in a moment so suffused with melodramatic tough-guy bravado that you’ll come away convinced the video is an elaborate troll. And it is! It was surely made with western audiences in mind (“there has been virtually nothing like this on North Korean screens before,” the BBC reports). Whether Kim truly believes he looks bad-ass or is just aping dumb American stereotypes of what looking like a bad-ass involves is beside the point. He’s acting regardless, to unintended comic effect.


But the star of the show is no joke. That’s a Hwasong-17 ICBM, unveiled by North Korea 18 months ago and test-fired here for the first time. Reuters:

Thursday’s launch was the first full ICBM test by nuclear-armed North Korea since 2017. Flight data indicated the missile flew higher and longer than any of North Korea’s previous tests before crashing into the sea west of Japan. read more

What North Korea calls the Hwasong-17 would be the largest liquid-fuelled missile ever launched by any country from a road-mobile launcher, analysts say.

Its range and size suggest North Korea plans to tip it with multiple warheads that could hit several targets or with decoys to confuse missile defences, they say.

Mobile launchers are critical for North Korea, which fears a U.S. preemptive attack. If their nukes are all based in silos, we could theoretically take them all out in a first strike. If their nukes are mobile, that’s a problem. If their nukes are mobile *and* fitted atop extremely large missiles with intercontinental range, that’s more of a problem.


According to the Japanese ministry of defense, the Hwasong-17’s range includes the entire continental United States. Assuming North Korea can make it hit the target, what you’re seeing in this clip is Kim’s trump card in the event of hostilities between the DPRK and the U.S.

Ridiculous, yet terrifying.

Watch at least the first few minutes, as that’s the cheesiest part. Although if you ditch out early, you’ll miss the slow-motion applause at around 6:30. Look on the bright side: You don’t need to worry about Putin nuking us over Ukraine anymore. North Korea nuking us is far likelier.

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