Original Kim Jong Il blog - http://kimjongillookingatthings.tumblr.com/
Imitation Kim Jong Un blog - http://kimjongunlookingatthings.tumblr.com/about
‘this blog was born in a warm autumn night, 26th october 2010, for reasons unknown.’
-- So begins the ‘about’ page on the ‘Kim Jong Il looking at things’ tumblr site dedicated to former ‘dear leader’ of communist North Korea. The blog first received notoriety on trending site ‘Reddit’ in early December 2010 and interest spiked soon thereafter as mainstream media began discussing the blog. Now the site receives 500,000 hits per month on average. Hours following the death of Kim Jong Il on December 18th, 2011, an imitation tumblr emerged featuring Kim’s ‘great successor’ and third eldest son, titled ‘Kim Jong Un looking at things.’ The site hit its trending peak in December/January of 2011/12.
The father blog was founded by Portugal-based advertising guy Joao Rocha, the latter by ‘Jason’ a computer guru from suburban Chicago and a self-proclaimed admirer of the original. Both blogs feature photos of the North Korean father and/ or son performing regular inspections of various facilities and institutions. Hence Kim Jong Il/Un looking at [mundane] things (ranging from larger-than-life radishes to womens’ bras.)
This blog is not participatory; the creator crafts all captions in the simple form ‘looking at shoes,’ for example. Nor are the photos manipulated; most are sourced from the state-run Korean Central News Agency.
I think the appeal behind both of these blogs, particularly the original, is that they depict two figures outside of their common mainstream media light. Kim Jong Il/Un are both held as ‘dangerous evils’ but here they appear harmless, simply observing various vegetables and/or discs (oftentimes while donning shades.) The contrast of a known ‘enemy,’ and now his son, performing such ‘inoffensive’ tasks makes the blog somehow ironic and a bit ridiculous.
The original has not only inspired the Kim Jong Un imitation blog, but a host of others, most all featuring political figureheads. Tumblr sites ‘Christian Wulff looking at things’ and ‘Karl-Theodor looking at things’ (links below) both display recent scandal-suffering German politicians ‘doing just that.’ The ‘looking at things’ micro blog, began with a man who ‘knew little about North Korea’ and had no politically-driven motives – imitations have transformed however into an outlet for expressing political discontent and/or public shaming.
Obama ‘looking at awesome things’ Flickr stream -- http://www.flickr.com/photos/dryponder/sets/72157623726710218