NEWS

Why Chinese people called Kim Jong Un 'Fatty on the Train"

As China banned all mention of Kim Jong Un on its internet during his secretive visit, people on the internet dodged the ban by calling him "fatty on the train" instead.


The North Korean leader made an "unofficial visit" to Beijing late March 2018, China finally announced on March 28, 2018. But while the visit was in progress, nobody would say what was going on, despite huge speculation and the fairly obvious signal of Kim's personal armored train pitching up in the city.

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In an attempt to keep the visit under wraps, China censored the characters for "Kim Jong Un" and "North Korea" from its internet — as well as longstanding nicknames for the North Korean leader, such as "Fatty Fatty."

To circumvent the ban, some Chinese people picked other unflattering nicknames, like "fatty on the train" and "the obese patient," Reuters reported. Others used more diplomatic terms, like "the visitor from the northeast" and "the sibling next door."

Kim with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. (Xinhua News)

The Chinese term they used for "fatty on the train" is pronounced "pang zuo huoche" in Mandarin.

Since the visit ended, references to Kim and North Korea have reappeared on China's internet.

On March 27, 2018, four of the top 10 blocked terms on the microblogging site Weibo were "Kim Jong Un," "Fatty the Third," "North Korea," and "Fatty Kim the Third," according to FreeWeibo, a site that tracks censorship on the platform. (The "third" refers to the fact that Kim's father and grandfather, also surnamed Kim, were also North Korean supreme leaders.)

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China most likely knew to censor those nicknames because it had done so in the past.

Beijing temporarily barred terms like "Kim the Fat," "Kim Fat III," and "Kim Fatty III" from the internet in late 2016, as people speculated over the North Korean leader's weight gain.

Pyongyang had asked China to scrub the unflattering nicknames at the time, The Guardian cited Hong Kong media as saying.