North Korea is pressuring Cambodia to ban the sale and display of the film The Interview, an American comedy about an assassination plot against its leader Kim Jong-un, Cambodian media outlets reported over the weekend.
According to a letter from Secretary of State at the Foreign Affairs Ministry Long Visalo to Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith obtained by The Phnom Penh Post over the weekend, North Korea implored Cambodian authorities to take measures to ban the movie, which risks damaging diplomatic ties.
“The Embassy of the [Democratic People’s] Republic of Korea in Phnom Penh had requested that Cambodia take measures to ban the sale of this movie, and has requested it not to be broadcast by television stations in Cambodia, or play in movie theatres in Cambodia,” the letter, dated January 20, said. “The Korean side has considered any activities [of sales and broadcasting] as a conspiracy by an adversarial force that will cause a break in the good cultural relationship of the two countries.”
The original North Korean diplomatic note, written January 9, had called the film an “insult” to the country’s leadership and stressed that it should not be screened or sold because it would violate Cambodian laws, which prohibit political propaganda or activity against a third country.
“[T]his is against the international law and the law of the Kingdom of Cambodia in which any political propaganda or activity against a third country is strictly prohibited,” the note read.
In response, Cambodian officials have stressed that they are already trying to restrict The Interview from being shown on television or in movie theaters. According to The Cambodia Daily, Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said in a Facebook message that he had made a request to all TV stations not to broadcast the film, while Culture minister Phoeurng Sackona said the movie “will not be there” in theaters.
But the larger problem is how to restrict sales, with DVD stores at malls already selling the movies for distribution. The Cambodia Daily reported Sunday that at City Mall, every DVD shop had The Interview for sale. One vendor said she had sold more than 100 copies over the past two weeks alone, and that it was nearly sold out.
This is not the first time reports have surfaced of North Korea pressuring other countries to restrict the sale and display of the film. Earlier this month, it was reported that Myanmar police had begun seizing pirated copies of the movie after the North Korean embassy had urged action to be taken.
The Interview was released by Sony Pictures Entertainment last month. It had aroused controversy following a cyberattack on Sony, which raised questions about whether the film should be released.