Hacking Sony was a ‘righteous deed’ – but not us, says North Korea

Something about this film smells fishy. KCNA

There have been some strange conflicts in history. The War of Jenkins Ear, which lasted from 1739 to 1748, resulted in the death of thousands. It started when Robert Jenkins, a merchant seaman, had his ear sliced off by Spanish coastguard Julio León Fandiño. The severed ear provided Britain with the excuse it needed to declare hostilities against Spain and keep the slave trade alive in the Caribbean.

Slavery was still an issue in 1859, when the Pig War saw Britain and America declare hostilities over the shooting of a pig on San Juan Island, a disputed border between Canada (under British rule) and the United States. When British authorities threatened to arrest Lyman Cutlar, who had fired the shot, his fellow settlers sent for military assistance. This all lead to a stand off between 500 US infantrymen armed with cannon and five Royal Navy Warships. Fortunately the pig was the only casualty of that particular war.

Seth Rogen War

Now we have what may be the early exchanges of the Seth Rogen War over, of all things, a comedy film called The Interview. The film, made by Sony Pictures, casts Seth Rogen and James Franco as tabloid TV journalists who are invited to interview Kim Jong-un and are subsequently enlisted by the CIA to assassinate the “Great Successor”.

Speculation was rife that North Korea was responsible for a recent hack into Sony Picture Entertainment’s servers. Unknown “black hats” leaked unreleased movies onto the internet for illegal download, and made staff emails as well as other sensitive data and account information – such as Sylvester Stallone’s social security number – available to popular websites such as Buzzfeed. Interestingly The Interview was not among the films leaked, amplifying the conviction that North Korea was involved in the cyber-attack.

North Korea have now denied involvement but praised the attack, calling it a “righteous deed”, and saying that its “supporters and sympathisers” may have been behind it.

Terrorism

In all probability this particular cyber-attack was made by a disgruntled Sony employee. There have been more since then, including at Sony’s PlayStation store. Apparently there have been quite a few redundancies at Sony Pictures and some experts feel that this is a more reasonable explanation for the security failures of the giant corporation. Although this would make the story less dramatic, there’s no denying the level of North Korea’s outrage.

In late June North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations Ja Song Nam complained to Ban Ki-moon about The Interview. He said:

To allow the production and distribution of such a film on the assassination of an incumbent head of a sovereign state should be regarded as the most undisguised sponsoring of terrorism as well as an act of war.

And an unnamed Korean spokesman called for the film to be banned, warning of “decisive and merciless countermeasures”. This despite Kim Jong-il’s reported love of cinema.

Seth Rogen has attracted the ire of North Korea. the-b-man, CC BY-NC

Attack and counterattack

So how did North Korea’s adversaries respond to their vitriol?

Seth Rogen tweeted:

I personally don’t care if (the movie’s) disrespectful to Kim because he’s evil. But that’s not the intent.

Surely Rogen is being disingenuous here. After all, isn’t the whole point of satire to ridicule its targets? Foreign media has been relentless in its quest to undermine Kim Jong-un, for example by referencing last summer’s viral spoof video of the leader.

If there is a Seth Rogen War then it is likely to be a war of words, as the DPRK love their rhetoric. Alternatively, perhaps “decisive and merciless countermeasures” means that the North Koreans are planning their own movie about that most iconic of US presidents, George W Bush. Surely a character beyond satire, or am I misunderestimating him?