Interview with a Korean spy; China variety special; CM of the week: Sanko Snacks

The border dustup last week between North and South Korean forces sent a chilling reminder that when the leadership in Pyongyang changes, the new boss has to show he’s a tough guy.

Twenty-three years ago, after Kim Jong Il took over the country, North Korean spies placed a bomb on a Korean Airlines jet that killed 115 people. One of the spies, Kim Hyon Hui, recently sat down for an 11-hour interview with TBS. The result is “Daikan Kukoki Bakuha 23-Nenme no Shinjitsu” (“The 23rd-Year Truth of the Korean Airline Jet Explosion”; Mon., 9 p.m.).

The two-hour special blends selections from the interview with dramatic re-creations, including Kim’s training in Japanese language and culture by abductee Yaeko Taguchi.

Korea doesn’t loom as large these days in the Japanese imagination as does China, so the two-hour variety special “Ima da! Shiritai Saizensen, Minna no Kyokasho” (“Now! The Front Line of What You Want to Know, Everybody’s Textbook”; Fuji TV, Tues., 7 p.m.) will attempt to impart new information about Asia’s greatest power.

For instance, the fate of Japan’s ¥100 shops is completely in the hands of China, since almost all the goods come from there. Also, there is a Japanese actor who has become a superstar in China, and he reveals how he gets along with Chinese people. And economist Takuro Morinaga digs up facts about China that never get mentioned in the evening news.

The show also offers information that has nothing to do with China, such as a story about new antiaging technology involving mechanical hearts, and false teeth that are even better than the real thing.

CM of the week

Sanko Snacks: Veteran samurai actor Ken Matsudaira is seen lounging in the gold kimono he made famous some years ago when he wore it during those “Matsuken Samba” musical numbers in his stage show. Sporting a chonmage (topknot) and surrounded by fetching servant girls, he drinks from a large stein of beer and munches on Sanko’s Kaki no Tane, small rice crackers shaped like persimmon seeds.

This is the life! But then Matsudaira suddenly wakes up. He’s back in his drab little suburban house, with his stubbly bald head and beer gut. He’s been sleeping on the lap of his wife and dreaming of a Technicolor heaven of beer, young women and Sanko sembei (rice crackers).

The commercial would hardly be noticeable, but as it turns out Matsudaira’s real-life wife committed suicide two weeks ago. Normally, an advertiser would remove a commercial like this one to avoid the appearance of being insensitive, but it’s still on the air. For that matter, Matsudaira’s theatrical performances haven’t been canceled either. The show must go on.