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North Korea threatens ‘merciless’ retaliation over James Franco and Seth Rogen assassination comedy

This is probably not how Kim Jong Un would react to "The Interview" script. (Rodong Sinmun via European Pressphoto Agency)

Well, that escalated quickly.

A spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry threatened "merciless counter-measures" if the United States (or film studio based in the United States, anyway) releases "The Interview," a James Franco-Seth Rogen comedy that depicts an attempt to assassinate Kim Jong Un, BBC News reported.

"Making and releasing a movie on a plot to hurt our top-level leadership is the most blatant act of terrorism and war and will absolutely not be tolerated," the unnamed spokesman said, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency. "If the U.S. administration allows and defends the showing of the film, a merciless counter-measure will be taken."

In the Columbia Pictures film, which is scheduled for release in October, Franco and Rogen play two journalists who land a rare interview with North Korea's supreme leader and are recruited by the CIA to assassinate him.

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"Want to go kill Kim Jong Un?" Franco's character says in the movie trailer for "The Interview."

"Totally, I'd love to assassinate Kim Jong Un — it's a date," Rogen's character says.

Last week, the North Korean regime warned through an unofficial spokesman that the film was hypocritical, though he said Kim would probably watch it.

But the rhetoric has taken a dramatic turn.

The spokesman quoted by KCNA said the movie had created a "gust of hatred and rage" among the North Korean people.

Pyongyang's penchant for outrage has been fairly consistent. As we've written in the past:

North Korean state propaganda is well-known for its permanent pose of righteous outrage, its odd proclivity for piling on metaphors and colloquialisms, and for language so wordy and over-the-top it verges on self-parody. But there is a certain internal logic to North Korea's official declarations, a worldview that makes sense from within the country even if it can seem absurd from outside.

"For all the hyperbole in which it is couched, and the histrionics with which it is proclaimed, North Korean propaganda is not nearly as outlandish as the uninitiated think," the scholar B.R. Myers wrote in his groundbreaking 2010 study of the North's propaganda, "The Cleanest Race."

This is not the first time North Korea has reacted strongly to an American film. Kim's father, Kim Jong Il, was  infuriated by "Team America," a parody flick by "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. One report suggests North Korean Embassy officials in Prague tried (and failed) to get the film banned in the Czech Republic.

Abby Phillip is a national political reporter for the Washington Post. She can be reached at On Twitter: @abbydphillip
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