The People's Daily ran a 55-page photo spread on its website in a tribute to the round-faced leader, under the headline "North Korea's top leader named The Onion's Sexiest Man Alive for 2012".
Quoting The Onion's spoof report, the Chinese newspaper wrote, "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 People's Daily cited The Onion as saying.
The photos the People's Daily selected include Mr Kim on horseback squinting into the light and Mr Kim waving toward a military parade. In other photos, he is wearing sunglasses and smiling, or touring a facility with his wife.
An online editor for the People's Daily said that the photo spread would be taken off-line.
"We have realised it is satirical," said the editor who works on the site's South Korea channel, one of the three channels where it was posted. He refused to give his name.
When asked whether editors knew the Onion piece was satirical when the People's Daily item was first posted, he declined to clarify, but added that they picked up the news after first seeing it on China's state-run Guangming Daily website.
He said that he hoped the incident wouldn't draw too much attention.
The chief editor for the People's Daily English channel, where the story also ran, declined to comment. "I can't say anything yet," said the woman who would only give her surname Wang.