Kim Jong Il Death Explodes on Twitter; Hollywood Weighs In


The late Communist leader becomes a social-media punchline as North Korea encounters new uncertainty under leadership of successor Kim Jong-un.

When word broke of Kim Jong Il's death, the news spread like wildfire on Twitter and remains a trend as media pundits and Hollywood stars alike weigh in on the North Korean leader. Reaction on the social-networking site was resoundingly negative but also irreverent in tone, resulting in the worldwide trending of "Team America," a reference to the 2004 animated comedy Team America: World Police by South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker in which the Communist head of state made an (unauthorized) cameo.

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"I can't listen to that song today," joked Young Adult star Patton Oswalt on his Twitter page, attributing the quote to "sobbing North Korean, as Run DMC's 'You Be Illin' spins."

In other comedic tweets: Jim Gaffigan ("Kim Jung Il died. I call his sunglasses."); Albert Brooks ("Kim Jong very very very il"); Neil Grayston, star of SyFy's Eureka ("Waiting for North Korea to announce Zombie Kim Jong-Il as Supreme Leader. Waiting. So. Hard.")

Media critics are also having a field day. Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly sniped in his Monday-morning appearance on Fox and Friends: "If there is an afterlife, I wouldn’t want to be this guy. All right? He’s a little warm right now. Put those weeping ladies up. The seven ladies they’re paying to weep in North Korea.” Referring to footage of North Koreans hysterically sobbing over Kim's death, O'Reilly added: "I guarantee you, ladies and gentlemen, they have been paid with hamburgers. There is no food in that country. All right? So they said hey, we need, what is it, eight leaping ladies, in the Christmas song. We need weeping ladies and there they are. Is there one tear? Do you see one tear? I see no tears.”

Meanwhile, Current TV pundit Keith Olbermann cracked: "Breaking Medical News: Kim Jong Il downgraded to Kim Jong Dead." He also retweeted this bon mot from comic writer Andy Borowitz: "BREAKING: Trump to Run for President of North Korea."

Elsewhere, in the blogosphere, Richard Lawson of The Atlantic observes: "Team America: World Police is officially a period piece." Gawker's Adrien Chen referenced the late leader's dictatorial reputation: "FYI, Kim Jong-un is adding you all to his 'To Kill' list for these tweets." And this from "Overlawyered" blogger Walter Olson: "When someone dies you're only supposed to say something good. Kim Jong-Il just died. Good."

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On a far more sobering note: North Korea must now deal with the transition of Kim's twentysomething successor and son Kim Jong-un.

“Up until tonight, if anybody had asked you what would be the most likely scenario under which the North Korean regime could collapse, the answer would be the sudden death of Kim Jong-il. And so I think right now we’re in that scenario and we don’t know how it’s going to turn out," Victor Cha, a Korea expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, told Reuters (via Mashable).