WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Kim Jong-il was reviled by human rights groups for jailing or starving hundreds of thousands of North Koreans and foreign diplomats abhorred his proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and nuclear saber-rattling.
But in life and even in death, Kim, who reportedly died on Saturday at 69, was comedy gold to foreign satirists -- among the few outsiders who will miss the late North Korean leader and his elevator shoes and bouffant hairstyle.
Kim and his eccentric state were a frequent butt of jokes by U.S. television comedians, while satirical website The Onion ran a story in which Kim’s son wondered privately whether he was crazy enough to run North Korea.
“The Globe reports that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il raises money by selling fake Viagra pills. What it is about this guy? None of his missiles seem to launch,” late-night host Jay Leno once quipped after a failed North Korean rocket test.
“While emphasizing that he was definitely completely insane and would likely become even more so as leader of North Korea, the younger Kim nevertheless wondered if he could ever be enough of a lunatic to truly replace the most unhinged dictator on the planet,” said The Onion of heir-apparent Kim Jong-eun.
The Onion got so much mileage out of North Korean antics and threats over the years that they marked his death with a sampler of greatest hits -- with headlines like “North Korea detonates 40 years of GDP” and photos of Kim turning into a giant transformer robot.
He was also immortalized in the 2004 U.S. film “Team America: World Police” in which a foul-mouthed Kim dropped U.N. nuclear inspector Hans Blix through a trap door to a shark pit, and declared in politically incorrect accented English: “You are worthress Arec Barrwin.” (You are worthless, Alec Baldwin)
Bloggers got into the act, too, with "kim jong-il looking at things" here and its sarcastic look at North Korea state media propaganda photos of Kim inspecting shops and factories in his country shared widely on Facebook after Kim's death.
Not content to let Westerners have all the laughs, Taiwan’s Next Media Animation was quick off the mark after Kim’s death was announced with an irreverent video showing Kim partying on a train as he is plucked by the grim reaper and then bathed in barrels of nuclear waste in Hell.
Even serious media took the kind of sardonic jabs at Kim that were visited upon few other authoritarian leaders -- with the possible exception of late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and his oddball wardrobe and bizarre speeches.
In 2000, as North Korea started a cautious opening to South Korea, The Economist magazine put a waving Kim on its cover under the headline “Greetings, earthlings.”
Eleven years later, the British magazine’s Asia blog noted Kim’s death with another photo of Kim waving under the caption “Farewell, earthlings.”
Reporting by Paul Eckert; editing by Anthony Boadle