North Korean Unicorns: Lost in Translation?

Last week, the official North Korean news agency (KNCA) released a report stating: “Archaeologists of the History Institute of the DPRK Academy of Social Sciences have recently reconfirmed a lair of the unicorn rode by King Tongmyong, founder of the Koguryo Kingdom (B.C. 277-A.D. 668).” The Western press took this as another in the continuing series of North Korea’s inability to stay in  touch with reality. Example: in 1994, a state-issued news story reported departed leader Kim Jong Il shot 38 under par on the 7,700-yard Pyongyang Golf Course!

Unicorns are real? Once again the world laughs at North Korea.

I am no apologist for their nonsense. But did the press get the unicorn story right? Was it state-sanctioned prevarication or trigger-happy mistranslation?

Emily Cotler, editor-in-chief of, an online magazine for fans of magic and folklore, has a different and intriguing take. (Disclosure: Emily is my daughter.) In a fascinating bit of scholarship that digs into not just Asian mythology, but also the way mythology underpins all cultures—and she speaks of beer and preschooler’s cartoons—Emily chastises the mockers for mocking without first doing their homework.

Read the fairyroom post here.


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