As rumors fly around a whirlwind visit to China by North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, some in China still struggle with his name.
The Chinese internet’s fat-shaming of Kim Jong-un
They feel that it’s too similar to that of his father Kim Jong-il, and his grandfather Kim Il-sung before him.
Which is why in China, many don’t call go with “Kim Jong-un.”
They prefer “fatty Kim the third.”
It’s a nickname born of a little bit of malice, and strangely, a bit of fondness, as well.
Malice because he’s a dictator of a hereditary Communist dynasty ruling over people who probably weigh half what he does; and fondness because it’s the kind of nickname you’d give a mischievous family member.
Many think of Kim Jong-un as a laughable figure who bluffs about his nuclear capacity to stir up trouble, but he has sizable fan base in China.
Countless Kim-related memes appear on Chinese social media. Some of the dictator clapping straight-faced, others making light of his unique hairstyle and evident joy as he inspects his nation’s nuclear missiles.
The most unflattering meme is probably the comparison of the dictator to Pigsy, the gluttonous and lusty part-human part-pig in classic Chinese tale Journey to the West.
In 2016, it was reported by international media that the term “fatty Kim the third” had been banned on China’s social media and search engines.
In response to reports from international media on the nickname, a spokesperson from China’s Foreign Ministry stressed that the nickname “does not reflect the facts.”
“The Chinese government is committed to building a healthy and civilized environment to express opinions,” spokesperson Geng Shuang said. “We do not agree with the use of derogatory terms to describe leaders of any nations.”
Chinese social media users went on to create more nicknames for Kim to avoid triggering censorship.
For example, people used “fatty wealth” – the character for wealth being composed of the word “Kim,” or “half-moon Kim the third” – “half moon” being the two characters that make up the character “fat” in Chinese.
Observers pointed out that the term “fatty Kim the third” has been banned several times before 2016, although it kept resurfacing on the internet.
Some have called the term “the barometer” for China-North Korea relations – it disappears when the two nations are friendly and returns when they are not.
Currently, the term is still banned across China’s internet.
More than any surprise trip, perhaps that gives a clue as to the current state of China-North Korea relations.