The Western entertainment industry has angered North Korea, again. A vitriolic statement from Pyongyang on Sunday took aim at British broadcaster Channel 4 – and the UK government – over planned political thriller Opposite Number, saying it “malignantly” slanders the DPRK and warning, "Reckless anti-DPRK hysteria would only bring disgrace and self-destruction." I wrote about the 10-part action series by Matt Charman from the Edinburgh TV Festival last month. It kicks off when a British nuclear scientist is taken prisoner in North Korea, triggering an international crisis which itself must be kept secret. Per C4, when the British Prime Minister and the U.S. president realize their man could be forced to help North Korea finally weaponize its nuclear technology, they must work together to pull the world back from the brink. Therein, evidently, lies the rub. What appears to have angered Pyongyang is the belief that the series, which is not yet in production, suggests that North Korea did not develop its own nuclear technology.
In a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency, a spokesman for Korea's National Defense Commission on Sunday called Opposite Number, “a conspiratorial charade painting a wrong picture of the DPRK's reality as it is based on a sheer lie intended to give impression that the DPRK's nuclear treasured sword for self-defense was manufactured by ‘illegally acquiring’ nuclear technology from Britain.”
The spokesman urged the British government (whose “tacit connivance, patronage and instigation” is orchestrating “this despicable burlesque”) to “throw reactionary movies now being planned or in the process of production into a dumping ground without delay and punish the chief culprits.” Doing so would help “preserve the hard-won diplomatic relations between the DPRK and Britain."
A Channel 4 spokesperson told Deadline today, “Opposite Number is a fictional drama series with imagined events, characters and storylines, which follows in the footsteps of the channel’s other dramatic political thrillers such as Complicit and Secret State.” Opposite Number is still understood to be seeking co-production partners. Given Pyongyang’s stance, it will be interesting to see the level of enthusiasm for the project at next month’s Mipcom. It's produced by Mammoth Screen (Parade's End) and written by Charman (who also has an untitled Cold War feature project to be directed by Steven Spielberg). The NDC called the people behind Opposite Number “hooligans and rogues under the guise of artistes” and noted that the nuclear strength of the DPRK “is so powerful and tremendous that no one can imagine.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London told The Telegraph, "It is for Channel 4 to decide upon its programming schedule. British media is editorially independent of the British government, and as such we would not be involved in the development or production of programs."
This is the second recent example of the Western entertainment biz angering North Korea. Earlier this summer, Sony comedy The Interview, which centers on a celebrity tabloid TV show whose host and producer are recruited by the CIA to assassinate Kim Jong-un, raised the hackles of the DRPK whose U.N. Ambassador accused the U.S. of sponsoring terrorism. The film that stars James Franco and Seth Rogen is set for a Christmas release.
The NDC statement referenced the movie yesterday, saying “It is not exaggeration to say that Britain is the country with inborn disposition of blindly copying the American-style diplomacy. This is evidenced by the fact that when a movie company of Hollywood distributed a preview of a reactionary movie peppered with the story hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK after producing it, the British broadcasting service deliberately used it for staging such charade.”