Chinese People's Daily Online positions itself as "one of the world's top 10 newspapers," so seeing an Onion piece on Kim Jong-un appear on its main page makes a reader look twice: this has to be a joke.
But no, there's no kidding with Pyongyang. The caption under the image of North Korea's supreme leader on the main page - The Onion's Sexiest Man Alive for 2012 - looks exactly as if Kim Jong-un were picked the Man of the Year by Time magazine.
Inside, a presumably statesmanlike image of Kim astride a powerful steed is followed by a flat quote from The Onion:
"With his devastatingly handsome, round face, his boyish charm, and his strong, sturdy frame, this Pyongyang-bred heartthrob is every woman's dream come true. Blessed with an air of power that masks an unmistakable cute, cuddly side, Kim made this newspaper's editorial board swoon with his impeccable fashion sense, chic short hairstyle, and, of course, that famous smile."
The snidest comments (Kim Jong-un being "a real hunk with real intensity who also knows how to cut loose and let his hair down") were not included. Instead, 54 more images of Kim Jong-un - the degree of pomposity varying - are offered.
The piece in The Onion, put together by its "Style and Entertainment Department", was released over a week ago. Kim Jong-un concludes a chain of other "sexiest men alive" with Syria's President Bashar Assad being his predecessor in 2011.
The magazine promised to come up soon with a printed "Sexiest Man Alive" issue that will contain a full 16-page spread on Kim Jong-un.
The Onion has been attracting quite a solid readership lately and soon may become a hard news outlet if the trend continues: just in late September one of Iran's leading news agencies fell for its story Gallup Poll: Rural Whites Prefer Ahmadinejad To Obama.
Later, the Fars editors admitted they mistook the piece, which unveiled that 77 per cent of rural Caucasian voters "would much rather go to a baseball game or have a beer with [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, a man who has repeatedly denied the Holocaust and has had numerous political prisoners executed, than spend time with Obama," for a genuine article.
Still they insisted the made-up preference seemed only too natural to them:
"Although it does not justify our mistake, we do believe that if a free opinion poll is conducted in the US, a majority of Americans would prefer anyone outside the US political system to President Barack Obama and American statesmen,"Fars editors wrote.So what next for netizens to look forward to? Maybe "The Sexiest Man Dead". But would Kim Jong-un's father and grandfather be eligible as "immortals"?