Mickey Mouse makes North Korean debut at concert for Kim Jong-un
Inclusion of Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh in concert marks a notable departure for performance arts in Pyongyang
Associated Press in Pyongyang
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 11 July 2012 10.40 BST
Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh took the stage in North Korea during a concert for new leader Kim Jong-un in an unusual performance featuring Disney characters.
Performers dressed as some of America’s best-known cartoon characters pranced as footage from Snow White, Dumbo, Beauty and the Beast and other popular Disney films played on a huge backdrop, according to still photos shown on state TV on Saturday.
The inclusion of characters popular in the west – particularly from the US, North Korea’s wartime enemy – is a notable change in direction for performance arts in Pyongyang.
In recent years, performances such as the Arirang mass games featured performers dressed as panda bears paying homage to China, North Korea’s ally.
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. Rucksacks, pencil cases and pyjamas imported from China often feature Disney characters, and stories such as Dumbo have been translated into Korean for schoolchildren.
The performance was staged on Friday by the Moranbong band, which was making its debut after being assembled by Kim, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
Kim Jong-un, who took power after his father Kim Jong-il died in December, has a “grandiose plan to bring about a dramatic turn in the field of literature and arts this year”, KCNA said.
Earlier in the year, a quintet of accordionists became a YouTube sensation for their arrangement of Take on Me by the Norwegian band A-ha.
The tribute by Disney characters signalled that Kim could carve a different image to his father and grandfather amid an easing of restrictions on western culture, said Koh Yu-hwan, a professor of North Korean studies based in Seoul, South 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 late grandfather, North Korea’s founder Kim Il-sung, at the mausoleum where he lies in state on the 18th anniversary of his death.
North Korea 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.