North Korean general cracks George W. Bush joke

SEOUL Tue May 8, 2007 11:26am BST

U.S. President George W. Bush speaks at the White House in Washington, May 4, 2007. In North Korea, where cracking a joke about the country's leader could see you, well, die laughing, poking fun at the U.S. president is obviously not as serious. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. President George W. Bush speaks at the White House in Washington, May 4, 2007. In North Korea, where cracking a joke about the country's leader could see you, well, die laughing, poking fun at the U.S. president is obviously not as serious.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

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SEOUL (Reuters) - In North Korea, where cracking a joke about the country's leader could see you, well, die laughing, poking fun at the U.S. president is obviously not as serious.

As military chiefs from both sides of the Korean peninsula met on Tuesday for talks, a general from the North started proceedings by telling a joke at George W. Bush's expense.

"I recently read a piece of political humour on the Internet called 'saving the president'," Lieutenant-General Kim Yong-chol was quoted as saying in pool reports from the talks.

He then retold the old yarn about Bush who goes out jogging one morning and, preoccupied with international affairs, fails to notice that a car is heading straight at him.

A group of schoolchildren pull the president away just in time, saving his life, and a grateful Bush offers them anything they want in the world as a reward.

"We want a place reserved for us at Arlington Memorial Cemetery," say the children.

"Why is that?" he asks.

"Because our parents will kill us if they find out what we've done."

The South Korean generals appeared befuddled as to what to make of the humour -- perhaps not surprisingly given that the North usually only refers to the United States and its officials in vitriolic, highly politicised language.

In the North, where Kim Jong-il wields absolute power, former refugees have said attempts to demean him mean certain punishment or even execution.

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