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On Friday North Korea’s official website Uriminzokkiri attacked South Korea and western nations for “unacceptable and inhumane action” for banning condolence groups from attending Kim Jong-il’s funeral and warned darkly of “unimaginably disastrous consequences” of the ban.
“We will keep in mind those who do not understand even the most basic actions of respect and humanity,” said the totalitarian government’s announcement, warning that those “who insult our dignity” face “the replacement of all cell phones with the latest North Korean rotary phones.”
The North Korean threat sent shock waves through financial sectors worldwide. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was quick to respond. “We had no idea how sensitive North Koreans were about funerals, but the threat of rotary phones is not one to be bandied about lightly.” Estimates of the social cost of a forced imposition of 1970s technology on current phone users reach into the trillions of dollars. “Such a top-down move would be disastrous for personal banking,” admitted Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner. “And it would seriously slow down most Angry Bird game applications.”
The North Korean message appeared to suggest a new crisis on the Korean peninsula after Kim Jong-un, third son of Kim Jong-il, has assumed power.
When asked about the feasibility of the North Korean threat, Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said Tuesday from Andrews Air Force Base that it was possible the North Koreans could “impose the retro phones while Americans were sleeping or possibly through the water supply.” The Deputy Secretary downplayed rumors that the North Koreans were hiring Canadians to carry out the plot, even though he said, “Canadians have a deep hostility to the U.S.” He did not believe Canadians would risk touching U.S. cell phones, “especially at night.”
Vice President Joe Biden lashed out at the North Korean threat. “I don’t think anybody should be forced to attend a funeral. They are often dreary and tiresome, with stale food.” Biden said most Americans would rather use rotary phones than attend a bad party after a long flight. “But if we cave to the North Koreans on this, then I suggest we send Jimmy Carter. He enjoys stale Korean food.”
Apple computer spokesperson Janet Levine, said that if North Korea succeeds in imposing rotary phones on the world, Apple already has an application called “Rotary Compliance” that would allow current iPhones to operate in the style of rotary-dial phones, with slow, circular touch-pad functionality. “Compliance with tyranny would not be problematic for us or our customers,” she said. “We respect the need for top-down solutions from time to time.”
The North Korean rhetoric suggested that the regime that falls into place after the funeral is not likely to shift dramatically from the hard-line stance of Kim Jong-il, who ruled with an iron fist during seventeen years in power before his death – even while earning a reputation as a playboy and charming foreign visitors with small pieces of saltwater taffy.
Since Kim Jong-il’s death was announced on Dec. 19, a series of pronouncements from the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, have indicated that Kim Jong-un, his third and youngest son, was rapidly consolidating his grip on power by assuming top titles, loyalty oaths, and countless keys. A full power transition has yet to take place because Kim Jong-un has not been able to locate his father’s iron fist, reportedly about the size of a soccer ball.
Kim Jong-un’s elevation to the leadership post of the Workers’ Party’s Central Committee was also delayed after the North’s state-run news media published an entreaty that whoever had the iron fist to please return it to Kim Jong-un immediately so that he could become supreme commander of the country’s Korean People’s Army. The top brass moved quickly to swear their allegiance to Mr. Kim, “even without the metal fist,” said General Chang Jun-ik.
“The missing iron fist might be a great opportunity,” said Peter Kang, professor of Korean studies at the University of Southern Hawaii, when asked about chances that North Korea would rescind its rotary phone threat. “If we could provide Kim Jong-un with a brand new iron fist, he might be won over and forget the rotary phone threat, especially if a U.S. delegation carried a large iron fist to the funeral itself. That would be ideal.”
Tuesday, North Korea announced a warm welcome to “condolence delegations” from South Korea, Japan, and the United States, offering assurances that “the convenience and safety of all condolence delegations will be fully guaranteed, especially if they carry soccer-ball sized gifts.”
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