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Pyongyang on Wednesday condemned an upcoming Hollywood film starring actors James Franco and Seth Rogen — who play characters caught up in a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — as an “act of war.”
The reclusive communist country has vowed to unleash a “merciless countermeasure” if the U.S. government fails to ban the movie’s release.
“The Interview,” which debuts in theaters in October, depicts Franco as a talk show host and Rogen as his producer. After the two land a rare interview with the Korean leader, the CIA recruits them to carry out his assassination.
“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,” North Korea’s official KCNA news agency quoted a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry as saying.
“If the U.S. administration allows and defends the showing of the film, a merciless countermeasure will be taken,” the unnamed spokesman added.
Kim took over leadership of North Korea after his father, Kim Jong Il, died in 2011. The current leader has shown no sign of relaxing the iron grip imposed by the state’s founder, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather Kim Il Sung.
Pyongyang has often threatened to attack the U.S. and its ally South Korea — with which the North is technically in a state of war — but its threats have rarely materialized. Still, the tense relationship has resulted in repeated political and military standoffs.
Earlier this month, the secretive state detained an American tourist, bringing the number of U.S. citizens currently held by Pyongyang to three.
Upon hearing of North Korea’s displeasure with his upcoming movie, Rogen wrote on Twitter: “Apparently Kim Jong Un plans on watching #TheInterview. I hope he likes it!!”
But North Korean officials aren’t laughing.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Kim’s unofficial spokesman said American filmmakers should look at their own history.
“There is a special irony in this storyline as it shows the desperation of the U.S. government and American society,” Kim Myong-chol said. “A film about the assassination of a foreign leader mirrors what the U.S. has done in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine. And let us not forget who killed Kennedy — Americans.”
Though North Korea routinely refers to the U.S. as “imperialist warmongers,” Kim Jong Un is believed to be a fan of American pop culture. The authoritarian leader was spotted giving a thumbs-up at a show of dancing Disney characters, and attended a performance set to the “Rocky” theme song.
Former NBA player Dennis Rodman has been invited to North Korea to host a series of basketball events, and refers to Kim as a “friend for life.” The controversial athlete even sang “Happy Birthday” to Kim before an exhibition basketball game between the United States and North Korea in Pyongyang earlier this year.