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Kim Jong-Un's Less Responsible, Disney-Obsessed Older Brother

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Getty Images

North Korea seems very keen of late to let everyone know that it is prepared to start a global thermonuclear war. The United States is taking the threat seriously, deploying antiballistic missile defenses along the Pacific Coast, and South Korea is threatening a “strong response in initial combat without any political considerations.” There is some question as to whether or not North Korea is technically capable of actually waging such a war, and it seems that nobody has told Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s Supreme Leader, my new favorite joke:

Q. Why did the chicken cross the road?
A. To escape North Korea’s long-range missiles.

In 2001, it didn’t seem that Kim Jong-un’s fingerprints might one day adorn the red button. In those heady days, a different Kim was in line for the throne: Kim Jong-nam (above right), the eldest son of Kim Jong-il. Things went bad for Kim Jong-nam when he was detained at Narita International Airport in Tokyo. The charge: traveling with a fraudulent passport. Specifically, he attempted to pass himself off as a Dominican named Pang Xiong (which translates as “Fat Bear” in Chinese). Japanese authorities, who know a fake Dominican when they see one, deported the heir apparent of North Korea to China.

Kim Jong-nam and his immediate family were attempting to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

All of this was pretty embarrassing for Kim Jong-il, the Shining Star of Paektu Mountain, who thus canceled his own planned Chinese excursion. Kim Jong-nam quickly fell out of favor with his father, and was replaced by Kim Jong-un in the line of succession.

Kim Jong-nam and Kim Jong-un are half-brothers. The older brother was born to Song Hye-rim, mistress of Kim Jong-il. The younger of the two was born to Ko Young-hee, a Pyongyang opera star. There is a middle brother—Kim Jong-chol—but Dear Leader considered him too feminine to lead a manly state like North Korea.

Life in Exile

These days, Kim Jong-nam reportedly lives in China, and makes frequent, extended visits to Macao, the Vegas of Asia. He is believed to have a pretty hearty appetite for booze and women. Officially, he has not defected and still lives in North Korea, though he didn’t bother to attend Kim Jong-il’s funeral, nor did he attend Kim Jong-un’s coronation. There are reports that Kim Jong-nam is opposed to such hereditary transfers of power, and believes North Korea must reform or perish. “As a matter of common sense, a transfer to the third generation is unacceptable,” Kim Jong-nam allegedly wrote in an email. He’s not bullish on his half-brother, either. “The power elite that have ruled the country will continue to be in control ... I have my doubts about whether a person with only two years of grooming as a leader can govern.”

His ongoing relationship with North Korea is “a very sensitive question, I can not answer.”

As for his family life, we know that his mother was eventually exiled by Kim Jong-il, and that she died alone in Moscow. Kim Jong-nam’s son attends a private high school in Mostar, Bosnia. (The son’s name is Kim Han Sol.)

The upshot is that Kim Jong-nam was passed over for having, in his father’s view, “less than reliable” judgment. Which means that Kim Jong-un, who is threatening to bring about a nuclear apocalypse, was considered the dependable one. All this because Kim Jong-nam wanted to go to Disneyland. If only he’d showed a little more restraint, Disneyland would have come to him.

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Employees at Antarctica's McMurdo Station Are Throwing a Party for Pride Month
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Employees at Antarctica's McMurdo Station are gearing up to celebrate Pride month in one of the world's harshest environments. On Saturday, June 9, the station will host what Hannah Valian, who deals with the center's recycling efforts, calls "one of the larger parties ever thrown" at the station.

McMurdo Station is an Antarctic research facility owned and operated by the United States. The station is more sparsely populated during Antarctica's colder autumn and winter seasons (which run from March to September), but employees tell us there's still a decent-sized LGBTQ scene to celebrate this June.

About 10 of the 133 people currently at McMurdo identify as LGBTQ, says Rachel Bowens-Rubin, a station laboratory assistant. Valian said the idea for a Pride celebration came up in May at one of the station's regular LGBTQ socials.

"Everyone got really excited about it," she tells Mental Floss via email. "So we ran with it."

Ten individuals are wearing coats while holding a rainbow-colored Pride flag. They are standing in snow with mountains in the distance.
"I hope when people see this photo they'll be reminded that LGBTQ people aren't limited to a place, a culture, or a climate," McMurdo's Evan Townsend tells Mental Floss. "We are important and valuable members of every community, even at the bottom of the world."
Courtesy of Shawn Waldron

Despite reports that this is the continent's first Pride party, none of the event's organizers are convinced this is the first Pride celebration Antarctica has seen. Sous chef Zach Morgan tells us he's been attending LGBTQ socials at McMurdo since 2009.

"The notion is certainly not new here," he says.

To Evan Townsend, a steward at the station, this weekend's Pride event is less a milestone and more a reflection of the history of queer acceptance in Antarctica.

"If anything," Townsend says, "recognition belongs to those who came to Antarctica as open members of the LGBTQ community during much less welcoming times in the recent past."

This week, though, McMurdo's employees only had positive things to say about the station's acceptance of LGBTQ people.

"I have always felt like a valued member of the community here," Morgan tells us in an email. "Most people I've met here have been open and supportive. I've never felt the need to hide myself here, and that's one of the reasons I love working here."

Saturday's celebration will feature a dance floor, photo booth, lip sync battles, live music, and a short skit explaining the history of Pride, Valian says.

"At the very least, I hope the attention our Pride celebration has garnered has inspired someone to go out and explore the world, even if they might feel different or afraid they might not fit in," Morgan says. "'Cause even on the most inhospitable place on Earth, there's still people who will love and respect you no matter who you are."

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New Nap Pods—Complete with Alarm Clocks and Netflix—Set for A Trial Run at Airports This Summer
Courtesy of Airpod
Courtesy of Airpod

Sleepy travelers in Europe can soon be on the lookout for Airpods, self-contained capsules designed to help passengers relax in privacy.

For 15 euros per hour (roughly $18), travelers can charge their phones, store their luggage, and, yes, nap on a chair that reclines into a bed. The Airpods are also equipped with television screens and free streaming on Netflix, Travel + Leisure reports.

To keep things clean between uses, each Airpod uses LED lights to disinfect the space and a scent machine to manage any unfortunate odors.

The company's two Slovenian founders, Mihael Meolic and Grega Mrgole, expect to conduct a trial run of the service by placing 10 pods in EU airports late this summer. By early 2019, they expect to have 100 Airpods installed in airports around the world, though the company hasn't yet announced which EU airports will receive the first Airpods.

The company eventually plans to introduce an element of cryptocurrency to its service. Once 1000 Airpods are installed (which the company expects to happen by late 2019), customers can opt in to a "Partnership Program." With this program, participants can become sponsors of one specific Airpod unit and earn up to 80 percent of the profits it generates each month. The company's cryptocurrency—called an APOD token—is already on sale through the Airpod website.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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