(CNN) — The North Korean government is fuming over the release of the “The Interview,” claiming President Barack Obama forced the film into theaters and onto streaming video services.
“U.S. President Obama is the chief culprit who forced the Sony Pictures Entertainment to ‘indiscriminately distribute’ the movie and took the lead in appeasing and blackmailing cinema houses and theatres in the U.S. mainland to distribute the movie,” North Korea’s National Defence Commission said Saturday, according to state-run media.
In the screwball comedy, a tabloid journalist who is granted an interview with North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un is asked to assassinate him. But when he arrives, the movie version of the dictator charms him. Later on, however, the two wage battle.
‘Inescapable deadly blows’
Just getting “The Interview” into theaters and online streams has been an ordeal.
Sony Pictures had initially suspended the Christmas release of the movie after its IT systems were hacked by a group called the “Guardians of Peace,” which had complained about the movie’s pending release. The group also warned of severe attacks on movie theaters showing the film.
In the cyberattack, thieves took a possible record haul of 100 terabytes of data — a slew of movies and other content, company secrets, personal information of employees and the social security numbers of celebrities.
The FBI has blamed North Korea for that cyberattack. North Korea, in turn, slammed the United States for the accusation.
“If the U.S. is to persistently insist that the hacking attack was made by the DPRK, the U.S. should produce evidence without fail, though belatedly,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency said Saturday.
“If the U.S. persists in American-style arrogant, high-handed and gangster-like arbitrary practices despite the repeated warnings of the DPRK, the U.S. should bear in mind that its failed political affairs will face inescapable deadly blows.”
Obama had expressed disappointment at the movie’s suspension, saying free speech had been stifled.
“We cannot have a society in which some dictators someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States because if somebody is able to intimidate us out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing once they see a documentary that they don’t like or news reports that they don’t like,” Obama said last week.
“That’s not who we are. That’s not what America is about.”
Who’s behind the Sony cyberattack
The FBI has said that the code of the malware used in the attack on Sony is similar to what North Korea has used in other attacks.
But that code was leaked a long time ago, cyber experts say, and any hacker around the world could have used it.
Some U.S. cyber experts say the evidence the FBI has presented isn’t enough to isolate North Korea as the culprit.
“It’s clear to us, based on both forensic and other evidence we’ve collected, that unequivocally they are not responsible for orchestrating or initiating the attack on Sony,” said Sam Glines, who runs cybersecurity company Norse.
CNN has reached out to the FBI for comment on such doubt, but has not heard back.
$1 million in one day
After Sony Pictures said film distributors had decided not to show “The Interview” for security reasons, Sony then arranged for direct distribution online via its own services, YouTube and through independent cinemas.
A few hundred movie theaters decided to go ahead and show the film on Christmas.
Sony had originally planned to release the movie in 2,000 to 3,000 theaters, but only about 300 played it. Nonetheless, the film raked in $1 million on its first day.
While there were threats of attacks on theaters that showed the film, no major incidents were reported.
CNN’s Brian Todd and Yoonjung Seo contributed to this report.