The Associated Press reports that, during a state concert for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, various Disney characters appeared on stage.
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 still photos shown on state TV.
The inclusion of characters popular in the West – particularly from the United States, North Korea’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.
Disney merchandise has been imported from China, and North Korea has translated stories such as “Dumbo” for schoolchildren.
It is uncertain if Disney licensed the use of these characters, although the importation of American goods to North Korea is not completely prohibited.
Disney already has a strong presence in China, with Hong Kong Disneyland in operation since 2005 and the Shanghai Disney Resort scheduled to open in 2015. Tokyo Disneyland has been in operation since 1983.
North Korea does have amusement parks, as CNN reported in August 2011. There are other fun fairs, some abandoned? Just as Walt Disney criticized local amusement parks after taking his daughter on an outing, so too has the “Great Successor” criticized local amusement parks in North Korea.
Kim Jong Un, at 28 the youngest head of state in the world, is working hard to bolster his power base, as his elder brother, Kim Jong-nam, was the expected successor to Kim Jong-il. Ironically, Jong-nam’s stature was tarnished in 2001, when he used a fake passport to enter Japan to visit Tokyo Disneyland.
Disney has studied opening a small amusement center in Seoul, South Korea. They currently operate a Korean Disney Channel in partnership with South Korean telecommunications provider SK Telecom Co Ltd. It is a satellite channel, meaning that the signal could be viewed in North Korea, if satellite dishes are allowed by the government. (Yes, Spider-Man is currently being broadcast in Korean. I wonder what the North Koreans think of Nick Fury?)
So, might North Korea become the Happiest Place On Earth, one giant EPCOT? Or is it more like Pinocchio’s Pleasure Island? Time will tell. But given that Hitler officially censored all Disney comics and cartoons, this does bode well for the future of the Korean peninsula.