China paper deletes 'sexiest' Kim report

By Neil Connor, Agence France-Presse

Posted at Nov 29 2012 07:45 AM | Updated as of Nov 29 2012 03:45 PM

BEIJING - The Chinese Communist Party's official mouthpiece on Wednesday deleted a story that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un had been named 2012's "Sexiest Man Alive" after it fell for a spoof by a US website.

The People's Daily Online ran gushing quotes from satirical site The Onion about the "Pyongyang-bred heartthrob" in Chinese and English as world news, along with a 55-image gallery opening with Kim astride a horse.

But after gleeful users of Twitter -- which is blocked in China -- pointed out the error, the pages were taken down on Wednesday morning.

They had made no mention of satire and lifted the The Onion's comments: "With his devastatingly handsome, round face, his boyish charm, and his strong, sturdy frame, this Pyongyang-bred heartthrob is every woman's dream come true.

"Blessed with an air of power that masks an unmistakable cute, cuddly side, Kim made this newspaper's editorial board swoon with his impeccable fashion sense, chic short hairstyle, and, of course, that famous smile."

The printed edition of the People's Daily, which has different editorial priorities from the website, did not carry the online report.

No official comment could be obtained from the People's Daily on Wednesday, but Twitter users poked fun at it. "The real question is why The Onion doesn't pick up more stories from People's Daily," said one.

The Onion updated its own story, inviting its readers to "please visit our friends at the People's Daily in China, a proud Communist subsidiary of The Onion, Inc. Exemplary reportage, comrades."

Analysts said Chinese media face challenges meeting journalistic standards because they work under strict conditions imposed by Beijing.

"The official view on journalism is not about liberal ideas of professionalism," said David Bandurski, a researcher of Chinese media at the University of Hong Kong.

"The first (priority) is loyalty to the party line. The second is opposition to Western bourgeois notions of freedom of speech, and the third is correct guidance of public opinion," he told AFP.

China is North Korea's sole major ally, providing the bulk of its food and fuel imports, and the People's Daily Online article was in line with a series of state media reports lauding Beijing and its partners.

During the Communist Party's 18th congress this month, Xinhua news agency published a steady stream of stories quoting "world leaders" as praising the meeting.

Many congratulations were from politicians in countries such as Samoa, Guyana, Congo or Montenegro.

But the People's Daily website is not the first media organisation to have mistakenly carried a story from The Onion.

The state-run Beijing Evening News lifted a report in 2002 that the US Congress would move from Washington unless a new Capitol was built.

This September an Iranian news agency apologised after it ran a spoof story that rural Americans preferred Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Barack Obama.