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7 of North Korean state media's craziest quotes about America

Kim Jong Un is on the phone.
Kim Jong Un is on the phone.
(KNS/AFP/Getty Images)
Zack Beauchamp is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he covers ideology and challenges to democracy, both at home and abroad. Before coming to Vox in 2014, he edited TP Ideas, a section of Think Progress devoted to the ideas shaping our political world.

North Korea's state-run media loves to say inflammatory, outrageous things about the United States.

There's a reason North Korea propaganda sounds this way: the eternal, glorious struggle with the United States is a key part of the ideology the Kim regime sells to its people. But the truth is that, all the same, reading these overheated rants as an American can be pretty entertaining. Here are seven of the craziest things North Korea has said about America, culled from original English state media releases — and what they tell us about Pyongyang:

1) America is the "arch criminal" and "unchangeable principal enemy" of North Korea

December 22, 2014:

The trend of the situation on the Korean Peninsula this year clearly shows that it is none other than the U.S. which is the arch criminal disturbing the efforts for creating a peaceful environment on the Korean Peninsula and bringing the danger of a new war and that it remains the unchangeable principal enemy of the DPRK.

This sentence is the entire North Korean propaganda view of the United States — the United States is the cause of all the world's evils, it's trying to destroy the North Korean people, and only the Kim regime can protect you — all in one place. This basic message, sold to North Koreans from a young age, underpins everything else you'll read in Hermit Kingdom propaganda.

2) America is a "toothless wolf" and "the empire of devils"

December 22, 2014:

No matter how desperately the U.S. may roar, it is nothing but roar of a toothless wolf.

The incarnation of all sorts of evil, the empire of devils, is bound to grow old and go to ruin. This is the law governing the historical development.

North Korea needs to make it seem like the struggle against the world's only superpower isn't hopeless, and one in fact in which North Korea regularly humiliates its dastardly enemy. So it frequently says that America and South Korea must, inevitably, collapse. Amusingly, this release cites American foreign policy experts — Richard Haass and Joseph Nye — to support its claims.

3) In America, "the law of the jungle governs"

March 27, 2010:

The U.S. is a society where the law of the jungle governs.

In this society one can live only by way of racketeering and through fraud and swindle. Without these practices one cannot but be pushed to the fringes of society where one can not keep body and soul together, denied even the elementary rights to eat, get clad and have a shelter. Yet, the rulers there trumpet about "welfare for all" and "equality for all." This is the true picture of the corrupt American society.

The human life and inviolable rights are exposed to constant threat in the American society where all sorts of crimes are rampant.

North Korea sometimes releases a "human rights report." Invariably, it describes the US as a step down from the blanched hellscape of Mad Max.

4) Kim Jong Un's great-great-great-grandfather defeated "US imperialists" in 1866

June 17, 2012:

His patriotism was displayed in leading the battle of sinking down the American warship, General Sherman, which was a modern vessel in those days.

The U.S. imperialists, who had long waited for a chance to invade Korea, sent the warship to it. The invaders sailed the ship up to Pyongyang along the River Taedong in August 1866, firing shells and bullets towards villages and plundering possessions.

Indignant at their atrocities, Kim Ung U called upon people to turn out in fighting battles against the invaders.

This actually refers to a real incident: in 1866, Koreans did attack an American merchant marine vessel named the General Sherman. Whether a member of the Kim family was involved is doubtful. But the point is to demonstrate that the Kims had always been at the forefront of resistance to imperialism — and thus explain why the hereditary monarchy rules.

5) North Korean missiles will reduce Washington, DC, to "ashes"

August 19, 2014:

We have already declared solemnly that all the aggressor forces to be involved in the UFG, military bases in south Korea and overseas, White House, Pentagon, Chongwadae and other bases of aggression and provocation would become the targets of the strategic and tactical rockets and other high-performance ultramodern ultra-precision fire strike means of the revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK.

If a war breaks out on the Korean peninsula, it will not be limited to the peninsula, and it is a matter of time that the strongholds of aggression and provocation will be reduced to ashes. It is no empty word.

North Korean missiles are nowhere near reaching Washington. But being able to strike America sure is a handy justification for North Korea's incredibly costly nuclear program.

6) America is a "group of Satan" bent on destroying Korean religion

April 22, 2013:

The Korean nation can never evade the catastrophic disaster nor can they lead a peaceful religious life as long as the group of Satan is left intact.

North Korea is officially atheist. But saying the Americans (or the South Koreans, the grammar here is a little unclear in context) are trying to persecute Korean religion is part and parcel of the North's broader campaign to make America look evil.

7) American "ideological and cultural poisoning" is undermining socialism around the world

July 16, 2014:

The imperialists have become evermore frantic in their reactionary ideological offensive to keep capitalism from falling into the abyss of ruin and dampen the growing desire of humankind for socialism...

In recent years the U.S.-led imperialist forces toppled governments in some countries through ideological and cultural poisoning and psychological warfare and built pro-U.S. regimes. The imperialists loudly advertise them as "bloodless revolution" and "color revolution".

Peaceful pro-democratic revolutions — think the Arab Spring or the color revolutions in the former Soviet world — are recast as American plots.

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