Disney comes to the DPRK
Updated: 2012-07-10 07:52
Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh took to the stage in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea during a concert for new leader Kim Jong-un, in an unusual performance featuring Disney characters.
In this image made from KRT video footage in the DPRK, the country's new Moranbong band and performers, dressed as Walt Disney cartoon characters, perform in Pyongyang on July 6. Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh took to the stage during an unusual performance for new leader Kim Jong-un. [Photo/Agencies]
Performers dressed as Minnie Mouse, Tigger and others danced and pranced as footage from Snow White, Dumbo, Beauty and the Beast and other Disney movies played on a massive backdrop, according to photos shown on state TV.
The inclusion of characters popular in the West - particularly from the United States, the DPRK's wartime enemy - is a notable change in direction for performances in Pyongyang. Actors and actresses also showed off new wardrobes, including strapless gowns and little black dresses.
This appears to be the first time Disney characters have been included in a major performance, though Winnie the Pooh and Mickey Mouse have been popular among children for several years.
Backpacks, pencil cases and pajamas imported from China often feature Disney characters, and stories such as Dumbo have been translated into Korean for the DPRK's schoolchildren.
However, it is unusual to make such images a central part of a performance and to publicize it on state TV in the DPRK.
Zenia Mucha, chief spokeswoman for The Walt Disney Co, said on Sunday that the use of Disney characters in the performance was not authorized by the US entertainment company. "This was not licensed or authorized by The Walt Disney Company."
US sanctions prohibit the import of the DPRK goods to the United States, but do not ban the sales of US consumer products in the DPRK unless they involve officials or companies on the US Treasury Department's sanctions blacklist.
The performance was staged on Friday by the Moranbong band, which was making its debut after being assembled by Kim himself, the state-run Korean Central News Agency said.
Kim, who took power after his father, longtime leader Kim Jong-il, died in December 2011, has a "grandiose plan to bring about a dramatic turn in the field of literature and arts this year", KCNA said.
The dispatch made no mention of Disney characters, but said the concert included the traditional folk tune Arirang as well as a number of upbeat foreign songs.
Featuring Disney characters signals that Kim may be seeking to carve out a different image than his father and grandfather by easing restrictions on Western culture, said Koh Yu-hwan, a Korean studies professor based in Seoul, in the Republic of Korea.
Kim, who is in his late 20s, has sought to project an image of youth, vitality and modernity. Early on Sunday, he led top officials in paying their respects to his grandfather, DPRK founder Kim Il-sung, at the mausoleum where he lies in state. Kim died 18 years ago.
The DPRK and the US remain in a technical state of war because they signed a truce, not a peace treaty, after three years of fighting in 1953. They do not have diplomatic relations.