BEIJING China's top newspaper went to town on Tuesday with a 55-page online picture spread of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un being named The Onion's "Sexiest Man Alive for 2012", appearing to fall for a spoof by the U.S. satirical website.
Seemingly clueless as to the real nature of The Onion's tongue-in-cheek award for Kim, the People's Daily splashed full-page photographs of the portly young leader riding horses, clapping his hands, waving and clasping children's cheeks on his tours around North Korea.
"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," the English online edition of the People's Daily quoted The Onion as saying. here
"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 People's Daily is the mouthpiece of China's ruling Communist Party and because it is widely believed to broadly reflect thinking within the Chinese government, it is among the better regarded newspapers in the country.
"He has that rare ability to somehow be completely adorable and completely macho at the same time," the People's Daily quoted Marissa Blake-Zweiber, an Onion editor, as saying.
A time stamp on the Onion website suggests it had published its satire piece on Kim earlier this month.
The Onion said previous winners of its "Sexiest Man Alive" award include Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is fighting an uprising against his rule, and financial swindler Bernie Madoff, who is serving a 150-year prison sentence.
China is Pyongyang's only major ally, with Beijing concerned a political or economic collapse in North Korea could send a wave of refugees to its poor northeast.
(Reporting by Koh Gui Qing; editing by Jason Webb)