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North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s new haircut makes him look like an evil anime mecha

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RocketNews 24:

Whether they’re being called dear, supreme, or great, North Korea takes the image of its top leaders very seriously. After all, this is the same country which claims the late Kim Jong-il, in his first round of golf, finished 38 shots under par (in case you’re not familiar with the technical terms, one under par is a “birdie,” two under is an “eagle,” and 38 under is generally referred to as a “crock”).

So it’s a little surprising that current head of hermit state Kim Jong-un’s fashion consultants have let him rock a hairstyle that seems to perfectly gel with the rest of the world’s image of North Korean dictatorship as cartoonish supervillainry, with a ‘do that makes him look like one of the antagonist mecha from classic anime Mobile Suit Gundam.

Since assuming power in 2012, Kim Jong-un’s been gradually filling into his role as unchallenged ruler of North Korea. While he was always known for his cherubic facial structure, the Supreme Leader seems to have packed on a few more pounds during his first two years in office, and in recent photos has been sweeping back his boyish bangs, perhaps in an effort to adopt a more dignified and commanding persona.

Not everyone is convinced this taller hairstyle is the way to go, though. Combined with, for some reason, much shorter eyebrows, some say it gives the 32-year-old a “creepy” vibe.

View image on Twitter

We have to agree that there’s something just a little sinister about Kim Jong-il’s voluminous flattop in the above photo. Somehow, it’s just a little too precise. As a matter of fact, it’s almost robotic.

Speaking of robots:

View image on Twitter

Pictured on the right is the MSM-08 Zogok, an 18.8-meter (61.7-foot) amphibious warmech used by the Gundam franchise’s recurring villains Zeon in 1986’s Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ TV series, and also in the more recent Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn direct-to-video series.

▼ The Zogok even strikes menacing, dictator-like poses on occasion.

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So did Kim Jong-il walk into his barber, carrying some bootleg Gundam DVDs procured in neighboring China, and tell his hairstylist, “I want that!” while pointing at the Zogok? That seems a bit on the nose, considering the side that builds and operates the mobile suit in the anime is so unabashedly fascist that its battle cry is “Sieg Zeon!”

 

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At the same time, it’s hard to imagine Kim Jong-il doesn’t look exactly as he wants to in the above pictures. After all, if he had so much as a hair out of place, we’re sure North Korea’s crack photo editing team would spring into action and do such a great job that we’d never be able to tell the images were retouched.

GQ takes an inside look at the North Korean Film Festival

“The Interview” is now streaming on Netflix

Engadget:

As promised, the movie Kim Jong Un preferred you didn’t see is now available if you have a Netflix subscription (and an account in US or Canada). Whether or not watching The Interview is a good idea is still a matter of taste/importance, but at this point it really couldn’t get any easier (at least until it comes to Sony‘s Crackle service for free ad-supported streaming at some point in the future.)

 

James Franco, Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen on set of Columbia Pictures' THE INTERVIEW.

‘Interview’ star Randall Park glad to switch gears with TV comedy

Randall Park speaks during the "Fresh Off the Boat" panel at the Disney/ABC Television Group 2015 Winter TCA on Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015, in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

Korea Times:

The Interview” actor Randall Park says he’s glad the film was finally released and he’s ready to move on to his next role — a suburban dad in an ABC sitcom.

Park, who played North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in the movie at the center of the Sony hacking incident, was asked at a Television Critics Association meeting Wednesday if he feared any personal fallout.

I was never worried for my safety or getting hacked during that process,” he said.

What was unsettling, a smiling Park added, was to watch a TV newscast “and they’re talking about Kim Jong-un and showing my face.”

He said he’s excited about his role in ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat,” adapted from the memoir by food personality Eddie Huang.

The comedy, about an immigrant Taiwanese family adjusting to life in Florida, debuts Feb. 10.

Kim Jong-un wants to open a restaurant in Scotland

 Complex:

Kim Jong-un would like to open a restaurant in Scotland serving North Korean cuisine. The dictator already has a chain of restaurants throughout Asia called Pyongyang, and apparently possesses a soft spot for Scotland due in part to his love of whisky.

Experts claim Kim Jong-un is also fond of Scotland following the country’s attempts at gaining independence from the UK last year, as North Korea is keen to bolster its European ties with left-leaning countries.

He has previously opened a branch of the diner in Amsterdam (the first North Korean restaurant in the western world), although North Korean officials say the notion that their glorious leader is to open another in Scotland is “a nonsense.”

Let’s hope the food doesn’t look anything like this.

Audrey Magazine: Get to know “The Interview” actor Charles Rahi Chun

CHARLES-RAHI-CHUN-sony-hacking-the-interview2

 Audrey Magazine:

Looking back at 2014, there was no movie quite like The Interview. A comedy about a fictional assassination attempt of North Korean’s current sitting leader Kim Jong Un, The Interview‘s release was preceded by the largest corporate hack in history, an online terrorist threat, and a last minute cancellation of the release which was quickly amended to a limited and online release after Sony, the distributor, was criticized by none other than President Obama himself. We spoke to one of the actors from The Interview, Charles Chun, who plays General Jong.


 

Audrey Magazine: What made you decide to become an actor? 

Charles Chun: My dream as a kid was to be an actor, but despite enjoying it in junior high school and performing and choreographing dance at Connecticut College, I didn’t honor this dream [until] a friend of mine took me to a dive bar in the lower West side of Manhattan to check out a cajun rock band called the Cowlicks. Physically, they were standing on stage, but emotionally, spiritually, and artistically, they were so into their music as if nothing else mattered, because they were doing what they love. In that moment, I realized I needed to pursue my dream of being an actor, and whatever the result, to know that I went for it.

AM: Can you explain your role in the movie?

CC: Sure. I play General Jong, the right-hand general to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. He’s an amalgamation of some of the hard-line generals of Kim. Seth and Evan, the movie’s co-writers along with Dan Sterling really did their research and wanted to illustrate the real life dynamics of North Korea, which is naturally comedic in a very tragic way. My hope is that the film will bring much needed attention to the atrocities that have been happening in North Korea under this fear-based totalitarian regime for way too long.

 

AM: What was the audition process like?

CC: I’ve played a variety of roles now in North Korean themed films and tv episodes, from U.N. Ambassador in The Art of War III, to a defecting North Korean scientist in Undercovers and a terrorist in Lie To Me, and it’s the job of casting directors in the entertainment community to know this. The casting folks at Sony reached out to my manager for a meeting, at which I performed two key scenes in the script and I was hired. Once I arrived on set in Vancouver and Seth and Evan saw that I worked well with their improvisational film-making style, they kept adding me to more and more scenes. It was a blast.

 

AM: What was it like on set? I imagine it must have been a set full of laughter, so what was the funniest joke that someone made? 

CC: I find Canadians to be amongst the friendliest and good-natured people I know. Seth and Evan, the co-creators and co-directors, have been best friends since pre-Kindergarten in Vancouver, and Seth and James Franco have been friends since their years on Freaks and Geeks.  Randall Park, who is amazing as Kim Jong Un, is a friend who I’ve known for 15 years as well.  So given all of these familiar dynamics, the set was very open and friendly, which is the best atmosphere for creativity, particularly for their improvised film-making style.

The funniest gag was probably when [spoiler] one of my North Korean comrades’ head explodes and his brain matter splatters onto my face. They use this machine that blows a chunk of red corn syrup with bits of fake brain matter with a kind of force that simulates… well, not that I would know, but a head exploding.  We had to get it in one take, given the mess involved and this huge splatter of blood and brain matter landed squarely onto my face. But as I was grieving for my comrade, a glop of brain matter began to slowly slide over my left eye while I was crying and I had to stay focussed and serious in grief, while this gross goop was sliding down my face. Everyone had a good laugh with that sequence.

It was a really fun shoot, and at the time, no one sensed the crazy escalating series of events that would make this such an international controversy and symbol for America’s freedom of speech and expression.

 

AM: What was it like for you when Sony announced that they would cancel all the screenings of the film? How did your friends and family react? Have you had to worry about any of your personal information being leaked?

CC: Everyday since our world premiere on December 11th, there has been some new twist or development. It feels like a gripping Netflix series. I was really bummed that Sony cancelled the Koream/Audrey red carpet premiere because it’s the kind of film to celebrate with our community. I’m just returning from my annual kundalini yoga retreat, and having been without news for just a few days, now that I’m back, it’s like catching up on several missed episodes of a Korean soap opera.

My friends and family have been really supportive and also in disbelief over this unbelievable series of events. It’s a comedy that’s gotten our President, the Republican National Committee, the far left and far right to all agree on saying, “go see this movie!”  It’s become a symbol of American freedom.

I’ve been asked by a number of reporters whether I’m concerned about my safety and I feel it’s shocking that this has become a legitimate question to ask. I’m an American actor living in Los Angeles, not in some Communist state and yet, this is a valid question to ask given the circumstances, which is just crazy. I love my freedom and choose not to live in fear.

 

AM: Have you been in contact with any of the other cast or Sony? How have they reacted?

CC: I’ve been in touch with both Randall and Diana since shooting the film and since our premiere. Can I just say that Randall is really amazing as Kim Jong Un. The film really hinges on his role and performance and the way Randall plays him is so smart and pitch perfect. Diana Bang, who they discovered in Vancouver and plays Sook, is also really excellent and I know audiences will be seeing a lot more of them both and rightly so. I think everyone involved with the film was really disappointed when Sony cancelled the opening, and equally elated when they decided to release it. It’s a very funny movie and it should be enjoyed by audiences who want to see it.

 

AM: What do you hope to take away from all this and what is next for you?

CC: It’s my greatest hope that what WE take away from all of this, as a society, is that the US and the world refuses to be intimidated by the fear tactics of others, whether it’s this corrupt North Korean government who is cruelly oppressing their own people or some other entity. And I hope the take away for the international community is that we cannot continue to allow for North Korea to treat their own people in such soul-crushing, horrific ways.

As for me personally, in addition to enjoying playing doctors, dads and North Koreans in tv and films, my other passion is holistic health and somatic healing, to expand the body’s natural capacity to experience energy and pleasure. You can find more detailed information about the health benefits of these sacred practices and my work here. I’m happy to go into more detail about my journey with this specialized modality, but that would constitute a whole other interview. Suffice it to say, that as an actor, holistic healer and Korean American, I believe we are here to realize our dreams, and hold nothing back within our mind, body and spirit in realizing this.

The evidence that North Korea hacked Sony is flimsy

A poster for the movie "The Interview" is taken down by a worker after being pulled from a display case at a Carmike Cinemas movie theater, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014, in Atlanta. Georgia-based Carmike Cinemas has decided to cancel its planned showings of "The Interview" in the wake of threats against theatergoers by the Sony hackers.

WIRED:

The New York Times reported that North Korea is “centrally involved” in the hack, citing unnamed U.S. intelligence officials. It’s unclear from the Times report what “centrally involved” means and whether the intelligence officials are saying the hackers were state-sponsored or actually agents of the state. The Times also notes that “It is not clear how the United States came to its determination that the North Korean regime played a central role in the Sony attacks.” The public evidence pointing at the Hermit Kingdom is flimsy.

Other theories of attribution focus on hacktivists—motivated by ideology, politics or something else—or disgruntled insiders who stole the data on their own or assisted outsiders in gaining access to it. Recently, the finger has pointed at China.

In the service of unraveling the attribution mess, we examined the known evidence for and against North Korea.

Attribution Is Difficult If Not Impossible

First off, we have to say that attribution in breaches is difficult. Assertions about who is behind any attack should be treated with a hefty dose of skepticism. Skilled hackers use proxy machines and false IP addresses to cover their tracks or plant false clues inside their malware to throw investigators off their trail. When hackers are identified and apprehended, it’s generally because they’ve made mistakes or because a cohort got arrested and turned informant.

Nation-state attacks often can be distinguished by their level of sophistication and modus operandi, but attribution is no less difficult. It’s easy for attackers to plant false flags that point to North Korea or another nation as the culprit. And even when an attack appears to be nation-state, it can be difficult to know if the hackers are mercenaries acting alone or with state sponsorship—some hackers work freelance and get paid by a state only when they get access to an important system or useful intelligence; others work directly for a state or military. Then there are hacktivists, who can be confused with state actors because their geopolitical interests and motives jibe with a state’s interests.

Distinguishing between all of these can be impossible unless you’re an intelligence agency like the NSA, with vast reach into computers around the world, and can uncover evidence about attribution in ways that law enforcement agents legally cannot.

So let’s look at what’s known.

Sony and FBI Deny Connection to North Korea

First of all, Sony and the FBI have announced that they’ve found no evidence so far to tie North Korea to the attack. 2 New reports, however, indicate that intelligence officials who are not permitted to speak on the record have concluded that the North Koreans are behind the hack. But they have provided no evidence to support this and without knowing even what agency the officials belong to, it’s difficult to know what to make of the claim. And we should point out that intelligence agencies and government officials have jumped to hasty conclusions or misled the public in the past because it was politically expedient.

Nation-state attacks aren’t generally as noisy, or announce themselves with an image of a blazing skeleton posted to infected computers, as occurred in the Sony hack. Nor do they use a catchy nom-de-hack like Guardians of Peace to identify themselves. Nation-state attackers also generally don’t chastise their victims for having poor security, as purported members of GOP have done in media interviews. Nor do such attacks involve posts of stolen data to Pastebin—the unofficial cloud repository of hackers—where sensitive company files belonging to Sony have been leaked. These are all hallmarks of hacktivists—groups like Anonymous and LulzSec, who thrive on targeting large corporations for ideological reasons or just the lulz, or by hackers sympathetic to a political cause.

Despite all of this, media outlets won’t let the North Korea narrative go and don’t seem to want to consider other options. If there’s anything years of Law and Order reruns should tell us, it’s that focusing on a single suspect can lead to exclusionary bias where clues that contradict the favored theory get ignored.

The Interview a Red Herring?

Initial and hasty media reports about the attackers pointed to cyberwarriors from North Korea, bent on seeking revenge for the Sony movie The Interview. This was based on a complaint North Korea made to the United Nations last July about the Seth Rogen and James Franco flick, which was originally slated to be released in October before being changed to Christmas Day. North Korea’s UN ambassador said the comedy, about a TV host and his producer who get embroiled in an ill-conceived CIA plot to assassinate North Korean President Kim Jong-un, was an act of war that promoted terrorism against North Korea.

“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,” UN ambassador Ja Song Nam wrote the UN secretary general in a letter. “The United States authorities should take immediate and appropriate actions to ban the production and distribution of the aforementioned film; otherwise, it will be fully responsible for encouraging and sponsoring terrorism.”

In other statements, North Korea threatened a “resolute and merciless” response if the U.S. didn’t ban the film.

But in their initial public statement, whoever hacked Sony made no mention of North Korea or the film. And in an email sent to Sony by the hackers, found in documents they leaked, there is also no mention of North Korea or the film. The email was sent to Sony executives on Nov. 21, a few days before the hack went public. Addressed to Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton, Chairwoman Amy Pascal and other executives, it appears to be an attempt at extortion, not an expression of political outrage or a threat of war.

“[M]onetary compensation we want,” the email read. “Pay the damage, or Sony Pictures will be bombarded as a whole. You know us very well. We never wait long. You’d better behave wisely.”

To make matters confusing, however, the email wasn’t signed by GOP or Guardians of Peace, who have taken credit for the hack, but by “God’sApstls,” a reference that also appeared in one of the malicious files used in the Sony hack.

A person purporting to be a Guardians of Peace spokesperson then emphasized again, in an interview with CSO Online published Dec. 1, that they are “an international organization … not under direction of any state.” The GOP’s members include, they wrote, “famous figures in the politics and society from several nations such as United States, United Kingdom and France.”

The person also said the Seth Rogen film was not the motive for the hack, but that the film was problematic nonetheless in that it exemplified Sony’s greed and fed political turmoil in the region:

“Our aim is not at the film The Interview as Sony Pictures suggests,” the person told CSO Online. “But it is widely reported as if our activity is related to The Interview. This shows how dangerous film The Interview is. The Interview is very dangerous enough to cause a massive hack attack. Sony Pictures produced the film harming the regional peace and security and violating human rights for money. The news with The Interview fully acquaints us with the crimes of Sony Pictures. Like this, their activity is contrary to our philosophy. We struggle to fight against such greed of Sony Pictures.”

It was only on December 8, after a week of media stories connecting North Korea and the Sony film to the hack, that the attackers made their first reference to the film in one of their public announcements. But they continued to trounce the theory that North Korea was behind their actions, and they denied ownership of an email sent to Sony staffers after the hack, threatening them and their families with harm if they didn’t denounce their employer.

At this point, it’s quite possible the media are guilty of inspiring the hacker’s narrative, since it was only after news reports tying the attack to the Sony film that GOP began condemning the movie in public statements. This week the hackers have pounced on that narrative, using it to escalate the stakes by making oblique terrorist threats against the film’s New York premiere and theaters scheduled to screen it Christmas day. Even if members of GOP lack the means or intent to pull off a terrorist attack on their own, they’ve now created an open invitation for opportunistic attackers to do so in their name—in essence, escalating their crimes and influence to a level no other hackers have achieved to date.

So why do some people continue to claim that North Korea is the culprit? There are two forensic discoveries that fuel this assertion, but they are flimsy.

Evidence: Malicious Files Point to Possible Korean Speakers

Four files that researchers have examined, which appear to be connected to the hack, seem to have been compiled on a machine that was using the Korean language. This refers to the encoding language on a computer; computer users can configure the encoding language so that content on their machine renders in a language they speak. But an attacker can set the language on a compilation machine to any language they want and, researchers note, can even manipulate information about the encoded language after a file is compiled to throw investigators off.

Evidence: Files Show Up In Other Hacks

The Sony attackers didn’t just siphon data from the studio’s networks, they also used a wiper component to destroy data. To do the wiping, they used a driver from a commercially-available product that had been used by other attackers before. The product, called RawDisk, uses drivers that allow administrators to securely delete data from hard drives or for forensic purposes to access memory.

The same product was used in similarly destructive attacks that hit Saudi Arabia and South Korea. Since some people have claimed those were both nation-state attacks—U.S. officials blamed Iran for the Saudi Arabia attack; South Korea blamed China and North Korea for its attack—people assume the Sony hack is also a nation-state attack. But the evidence pointing to those other attacks as nation-state attacks is also flimsy.

The 2012 attack in Saudi Arabia, dubbed Shamoon, wiped data from about 30,000 computers belonging to Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil conglomerate. Although U.S. officials blamed Iran for it, researchers found that malware used in the attack contained sloppy code riddled with errors and attributed it to hacktivists with political motives rather than a nation-state. The malware displayed part of an image of a burning U.S. flag on infected machines before they were wiped. What’s more, a group calling itself the Cutting Sword of Justice took credit for the hack. “This is a warning to the tyrants of this country and other countries that support such criminal disasters with injustice and oppression,” they wrote in a Pastebin post. “We invite all anti-tyranny hacker groups all over the world to join this movement. We want them to support this movement by designing and performing such operations, if they are against tyranny and oppression.”

That sounds like a call to recruit other like-minded activists who might also be opposed to, say, a “criminal” company like Sony.

Last year, a similarly destructive attack, dubbed Dark Seoul by researchers, struck computers at banks and media companies in South Korea. The attack used a logic bomb, set to go off at a specific time, that wiped computers in a coordinated fashion. The attack wiped the hard drives and master boot records of computers at three banks and two media companies simultaneously, reportedly putting some ATMs out of operation and preventing South Koreans from withdrawing cash from them. As with the Sony and Saudi Aramco hacks, the attackers used a RawDisk driver for their attack. They also left an image of a skull on the web site of the South Korean president’s office. And an IP address used for one of the attackers’ command-and-control servers matches an IP address the Sony hackers used for one of their command servers.

South Korea alternately blamed North Korea for the attack as well as China—since an IP address in China appeared to be part of the campaign. Officials later retracted the allegations.

The same group behind this attack are said to be behind other attacks in South Korea that occurred on the anniversary of the Korean War.

OK, So Who Hacked Sony?

Regardless of whether the Sony, Saudi Aramco and South Korea attacks are related, the evidence indicating they’re nation-state attacks is circumstantial. And all of the same evidence could easily point to hacktivists. Our money is on the latter.

This is likely a group of various actors who coalesce and disperse, as the Anonymous hackers did, based on their common interests. But even with that said, there is another possibility with regard to the Sony hack: that the studio’s networks weren’t invaded by a single group but by many, some with political interests at heart and others bent on extortion. Therefore, we can’t rule out the possibility that nation-state attackers were also in Sony’s network or that a nation like North Korea was supportive of some of these hackers, since they shared similar anger over Sony. Another interesting scenario was recently posited by Deadline, suggesting that China may have initiated a breach at Sony during business negotiations with the studio last year, before handing off control to freelance hackers.