Archive for the ‘Animation’ Category

N. Korea [not] growing more tolerant of foreign movies

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

UPDATE 2: (hat tip to a couple of appreciated readers) Park Soo-me reports on the proliferation of South Korean films in the DPRK:

“It’s safe to assume that a majority of North Korean residents have watched a South Korean film or a soap opera at least once,” said Kim, who left North Korea in 2004, and established a think-tank in Seoul called the “North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity.”

The group, which frequently communicates with their inside contacts in the North, recently broke revealing news that a group of North Korean students were caught watching “Haeundae,” a mega-hit South Korean disaster film locally released just over a month ago, at a computer lab inside a Pyongyang college.

The defector group cited an anonymous source in Pyongyang who told their reporter that the government is tightening a crackdown of digital files, as South Korean films smuggled through China are endangering the North’s dictatorial regime.

A student identified only as “Choi” said he had downloaded the film at his relative’s house in Cheongjin, a city about 50 miles from the Chinese border. He was arrested for promoting the ideology of his enemy state, not for circulating a pirated film.

Since the late 1990s, South Korean dramas and films were illegally traded in the North through local businessmen frequenting the Chinese borders. The phenomenon is not unlike that from the young Soviets in the 1970s, who secretly acquired rock ‘n’ roll records and American videotapes through its black market, despite the country’s ban on the cultural products of the capitalist state.

Last year, an insider from another defectors’ group based in Seoul broke news that DVD compilations of South Korean adult films and TV dramas are becoming popular in the North, as the sales of the average South Korean soap opera has declined in recent years. Such DVDs were found in a North Korean market in Cheongjin, the group said through its newsletter.

The situation in the North has gotten to the point where Oh Yang-yeol, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, published a paper on “Hallyu in North Korea: Now and Future.”

The term hallyu recalls the Korean wave of pop culture that hit Southeast Asia in the early 2000s. Oh’s paper stresses the spread of South Korean fashion, drama and music among the younger generation of North Koreans.

In a separate release by the Korean Institute of National Unification, experts have quoted North Korean defectors who have testified that South Korean melodramas like “Autumn in My Heart” and “Winter Sonata” have become a such hit in the North that a special squad was once organized to crack down on the violators.

But not all dramas smuggled into the North are soft, touchy-feely soap operas. Among the works that have been found and blacklisted by the Northern authorities include films like Park Chan-wook’s “Joint Security Area,” a story which is essentially built around a forbidden friendship between solders from the North and South who are stationed in the Demilitarized Zone that divides the two countries.

On the distribution side, South Korean films and TV dramas are appearing in the North faster and with a broader reach, as evident in the recent case of “Haeundae.”

“In the past, it normally took up to six months for a South Korean film to arrive in the North,” Oh said. “Now, it takes little over a month. In wealthier neighborhoods in Pyongyang we start to see local girls imitating the hairstyle and fashion of South Korean celebrities who starred in the latest TV dramas.”

Irritated by the spread of hallyu — often referred to as the “yellow wind” in the North — authorities have tightened censorship regulations and house inspections to encourage “ideological discipline.” But there is a limit as to what they can do.

Although limited to a privileged few, more computer-savvy Koreans in Pyongyang are finding easier alternatives to enjoy pop culture from the outside world, making the North’s isolation more difficult. Internet access is limited to an Intranet for most people in the North. But USB drives are becoming more common among local college and middle school students, and frequent traffic between North Korea and China is increasing opportunities for cross-border smuggling of pirated films from Hollywood and Seoul.

Read the full story below:
Pop culture making inroads into North Korea
Hollywood Reporter
Park Soo-mee

UPDATE 1: Although the Donga Ilbo previously reported that the DPRK was growing more tolerant of foreign films (below), Channel News Asia reports the DPRK is clamping down:

The student in Pyongyang was caught on September 5 while watching a digital copy of “Haeundae” with his dorm friends, the North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity said in a newsletter posted on its website.

The student allegedly acquired a file of the film at a relative’s house in the northeastern port city of Chongjin and downloaded it onto his college computer, it said.

The case prompted authorities to launch an extensive probe aimed at preventing the spread of the movie, the group said, quoting a “correspondent” in the North.

The inspection revealed that tens of thousands of North Koreans have secretly seen foreign films, it said.

Defectors say South Korean pop songs and movies are popular in the isolated communist country, despite a steady campaign to weed out what state media has termed “decadent foreign culture and ideals”.

In December 2007, three North Koreans including a schoolteacher were sentenced to death for smuggling illegal adult films from China and South Korea, according to Good Friends, a Seoul-based aid group working in the North.

ORIGINAL POST: According to the Donga Ilbo:

Recently, the North has televised the shows “International Common Sense,” “Animals in the World,” and “Foreign Culture,” programs which had been abolished long ago. Those programs even show the daily lives of Westerners.

A few days ago, a video clip was aired in which North Korean singers in military uniform played the guitar and sang Italian songs. When broadcasting sports, Pyongyang used to simply air competitions in which North Korean athletes participated, but when airing the IAAF World Championship in Athletics in Berlin last month, the North summarized footage of major events and televised them.

North Korea’s attitude toward foreign movies has also changed. CD-ROMs containing foreign movies have been manufactured by the state-run Hana Electronics, which has sold them across the nation. Most of the CD-ROMs include foreign movies aired by Mansudae TV, which serves Pyongyang only.

A CD-ROM is priced at 1,500 North Korean won (41 U.S. cents) and a DVD goes for 7,500 won (2.07 dollars). CD-ROMs of cooking game programs as well as those on the lives of famous soccer players such as Diego Maradona and Franz Beckenbauer are also on the market.

The North has also embraced world-famous animated films. The Disney productions of “Cinderella,” “Pinocchio,” “Sleeping Beauty” and “Robin Hood” are available across the nation. The popular American cartoon “Tom and Jerry” is called “The Magic World of a Mouse” in the North.

The proliferation of foreign movies has also led to an increase in secret movie rental stores. Government-manufactured CD-ROMs can be rented out at 300 won (eight cents) per day and illegal movies can be borrowed at 500 won (14 cents) per day.

Yet most foreign programs broadcast in North Korea are created in China, which, in turn, has encouraged North Koreans to adopt the Chinese way of life. Mansudae TV routinely broadcasts Chinese soap operas like the drama “Unnamed Hero” and “Vertical Blow,” which shows the training of China’s special forces.

Despite the apparent liberalization of North Korean television, Pyongyang has toughened its punishment for those watching South Korean TV programs. In the past, punishment for watching a South Korean program was usually avoided through a bribe but the offense is now considered more severe than a drug-related crime.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea Growing More Tolerant of Foreign Movies
Donga Ilbo


Friday Fun: North Korean comics

Friday, September 18th, 2009


Read more at Oikono.


GPI organizaing DPRK business delegation

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

From GPI Consulting:

In the current financial and economic situation, companies face many challenges. They must cut costs, develop new products and find new markets. In these fields, North-Korea might be an interesting option. Inspired by the economic successes of its neighbouring country China, North-Korea has since a few years opened its doors to foreign enterprises. It established several free trade zones to attract foreign investors and there are several sectors, including textile industry, shipbuilding, agro business, logistics, renewable energy, mining and Information Technology, that can be considered for trade and investment.

North-Korea is competing with other Asian countries by offering skilled labor for very low monthly wages and by offering tax incentives.  Last year, North-Korea’s exports rose with 23 percent and its imports with 32 percent. Do you want to explore new business opportunities for your company? Then join us from 19 – 26 September 2009 on our trade & investment mission to North-Korea. The program includes individual matchmaking, company visits, network receptions and dinners. Furthermore, we will visit the annual Autumn International Trade Fair in Pyongyang (see photo). We will also meet European business people who are working and living in North-Korea.
The mission is meant for entrepreneurs from various business sectors; tailormade meetings will be arranged by our local partner, the DPRK Chamber of Commerce. The program of this unique mission has been attached and we can be contacted for further details. In case you want to participate: please register as soon as possible, so we can start the visa-application procedure.
With best regards,
Paul Tjia (sr. consultant ‘global sourcing’)
GPI Consultancy, P.O. Box 26151, 3002 ED Rotterdam, The Netherlands
E-mail: [email protected] tel: +31-10-4254172  fax: +31-10-4254317 Website:
N.B. some examples of investment opportunities in North-Korea: and 

GPI’s marketing flyer is here.


Pyongyang changes official narrative on South

Monday, December 1st, 2008

In a recent Korea Times article, Andrei Lankov (citing Brian Myers) highlights how the DPRK has changed the narrative of its raison d’être in response to the growing realization among its people that South Korea is not the poor, exploited US colony the propaganda portrays it to be. 

Quoting from the article:

Until some time a decade ago, the North Korean populace was expected and required to believe in a very simple world picture.

The North, led by the glorious dynasty of omniscient and benevolent rulers, was the best society on the face of the Earth, much envied and glorified by the less fortunate peoples of other countries.

The rest of the world was inferior, though people in the socialist countries admittedly fared better than the helpless inhabitants of the capitalist hell.

But worst of all was South Korea, the colony of the U.S. imperialists who exploited it with unparalleled brutality.

However, around 2000 the North Korean watchers (well, actually a handful of them with the time and ability to read the official press systematically) began to notice a new image of the South emerge.

Brian Myers, the ever observant reader of North Korean press and fiction first noticed the signs of this quiet transformation when it was only beginning.

Soon it became clear that he was right. A new propaganda line was being born. Interestingly, this time the new line was introduced not through newspapers, but in a more subtle way, through works of fiction, which also have to be approved by the supreme ideological authorities.

The new South Korea which emerged in these writings wasn’t so poor. Actually, it was not poor at all. The characters in recent North Korean novels, which deal with the imaginary life of the South, enjoy a lifestyle far superior to that of the average North Korean. They drive cars, dine out easily and live in expensive houses.

As Myers pointed out, the North Korean authors have poor ideas of how expensive Seoul real estate has become, so they sometimes overestimate South Korean’s income levels. In one novel, a young South Korean journalist buys a house in a very expensive neighborhood after merely a few years of work.

Does this mean that the new image of the South is positive? Of course not! South Korean society might be rich, the propaganda operators say, but it is still inferior to the North.

The South Koreans had to pay a terrible price for their success: they were deprived of their precious national identity.

The cultural uniqueness and racial purity of the great Korean nation has become endangered. Mixed marriages are mentioned frequently and in a way that makes readers believe they are between the same lusty Americans and young Korean women.

However, the propaganda insists, the South Koreans themselves are not happy about this situation. They dream about liberation and purification, and their hopes are pinned on Pyongyang and, above all, the Dear Leader himself. In recent years, North Korean propaganda has insisted that Kim Jong -il is worshipped in the South. Similar statements were made earlier as well.

According to this new logic, the North is a torchbearer, a proud protector of nationhood and racial purity. South Korean prosperity is tainted and hence should not be envied.

The North must fight for the ultimate salvation of the South, and such salvation can be achieved only through unification under the North Korean auspices, so all South Koreans will be able to enjoy the loving care of the Dear Leader. Only American troops and a handful of national traitors prevent this dream from coming true.

Lankov (and Myers) speculate that the North Korean government changed the narrative in response to unauthorized information permeating the country.  In a related note, the overt propaganda in many North Korean films has also been reduced in recent decades.

Most importantly, Lankov reminds us that nationalism is not a viable long-term political strategy—even in North Korea.  North Korean Juche was supposed to liberate the Korean people and deliver on material progress, but it has not succeeded.  From top to bottom, many North Koreans already know this.


GPI consultancy report on DPRK trade mission

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

From GPI:

For many entrepreneurs, North-Korea is a relatively unknown trade destination. For this reason, from 28 September to 4 October 2008, a Dutch economic delegation investigated the business climate in this country. You may download a short report of this unique mission here.  Because of its success, another mission will be organised in 2009.
The participants noticed trade and investments in several fields, including textile and garments, shipbuilding, agribusiness, logistics, mining, animation and Information Technology. The findings of the mission will be presented at the seminar “Doing business with North-Korea”, which will take place in The Hague in spring 2009. A videofilm about the tour will be shown as well.
If you are interested in business opportunities in North-Korea, or in joining a seminar or trade mission, please contact us for further details. It is also possible for us to give presentations at business seminars abroad, in order to present the findings of the Dutch mission in more detail.
With best regards,
Paul Tjia (sr. consultant ‘offshore sourcing’)
GPI Consultancy, P.O. Box 26151, 3002
ED Rotterdam, The Netherlands
E-mail: [email protected]
tel: +31-10-4254172 
fax: +31-10-4254317


DPRK military technology

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

The North Korean children’s cartoon “Yon-pil-po-lan” (link here and below) is a great example of the role that sate-controlled media plays in the socialist system: regime enhancement.  In this cartoon, a young pioneer dreams of using his school supplies to fight off the “Mi-jae (Miguk jugukjui)”—or “American imperialist”. 

The cartoon itself made me laugh because I have a feeling that the actual state of the DPRK’s military technology is probably not far off from that shown in this cartoon!



North Korea on Google Earth

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

North Korea Uncovered: Version 12
Download it here

mayday.JPGAbout this Project: This map covers North Korea’s agriculture, aviation, cultural locations, markets, manufacturing facilities, energy infrastructure, political facilities, sports venues, military establishments, religious facilities, leisure destinations, national parks, shipping, mining, and railway infrastructure. It is continually expanding and undergoing revisions. This is the 12th version.

Additions include: Tongch’ang-dong launch facility overlay (thanks to Mr. Bermudez), Yongbyon overlay with destroyed cooling tower (thanks to Jung Min Noh), “The Barn” (where the Pueblo crew were kept), Kim Chaek Taehung Fishing Enterprise, Hamhung University of education, Haeju Zoo, Pyongyang: Kim il Sung Institute of Politics, Polish Embassy, Munsu Diplomatic Store, Munsu Gas Station, Munsu Friendship Restaurant, Mongolian Embassy, Nigerian Embassy, UN World Food Program Building, CONCERN House, Czech Republic Embassy, Rungnang Cinema, Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, Pyongyang Number 3 Hospital, Electric Machines Facotry, Bonghuajinlyoso, Second National Academy of Sciences, Central Committee Building, Party Administration Building, Central Statistics Bureau, Willow Capital Food House, Thongounjong Pleasure Ground, Onpho spa, Phipa Resort Hotel, Sunoni Chemical Complex (east coast refinery), Ponghwa Chemical complex (west coast refinery), Songbon Port Revolutionary Monument, Hoeryong People’s Library, Pyongyang Monument to the anti Japanese martyrs, tideland reclamation project on Taegye Island. Additionally the electricity grid was expanded and the thermal power plants have been better organized. Additional thanks to Ryan for his pointers.

I hope this map will increase interest in North Korea. There is still plenty more to learn, and I look forward to receiving your contributions to this project.

Version 12 available: Download it here


North Korean posters: the book

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

nkposters.jpgNorth Korean Posters is a colorful and engaging book for those interested in North Korean, communist, or socialist-realism art. Portraying over 250 North Korean posters from the past fifty years, along with English and German translations, the book is the most comprehensive collection of North Korean political art of which I am aware.

Each page offers vivid images of the values and goals the regime has tried, and continues to try, to instill in its own people.  In order to help readers, particularly those who did not grow up under socialism, get a sense of the themes highlighted in communist political propaganda, the art work is grouped into categories: Constructing the People’s Paradise, Undeterred Defiance (military), Loyalty and Devotion, Defending the Revolution, and United We Stand.

This colleciton was put together by a gentleman named David Heather, who according to Forbes:

… first encountered such work […] when he met a North Korean painter exhibiting at an art fair in Harare, Zimbabwe in 2000. They kept in touch, and in 2004 Heather accepted his friend’s invitation to visit the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, and to get a tour of his atelier: the state-run Mansudae Art Studio. In truth it’s more factory than studio. The complex, says Heather, covers 30 acres and houses around 1,000 artists making paintings, posters and other artwork, including nonideological pottery. Their output is used to decorate public buildings and subways, or is given as gifts to state officials.

While some posters are reproduced as prints, most are copied up to 100 times each by hand. Rarely are two such copies identical; each qualifies as an original artwork. North Koreans, says Heather, are used to doing many tasks by hand. On public lawns, for example, he has seen people cutting grass with scissors.

“I looked around the studios and had certain ideas,” says Heather, whose previous ventures include a child care business in the U.K. that failed in the 1990s. Before leaving Pyongyang he signed a contract with the studio to find markets for its artwork outside Asia.

Starting in 2004 he began shipping hundreds of works of art to London. He rented a gallery in Pall Mall and hoisted a North Korean flag outside. In 2007 he unveiled a public exhibition of his collection–the biggest ever of North Korean art outside Korea. “I was expecting demonstrations outside, people camping out, protests.” Instead he sold–from this exhibit and from a second, smaller one at London’s Foyles bookshop–some 100 propaganda posters, 30 paintings and 5 or 6 pieces of pottery. Most buyers were American. He says he hauled in a total of $220,000 for pieces he had bought for $50,000.

A few posters in the book will be familiar to DPRK visitors, since they often appear at prominent locations.  I commissioned two paintings in Pyongyang, and they are both in this book.  A few others can be seen in travelers’ photos. If you are interested in ordering the book, click here.  To learn a little more about how North Korean art is produced, order Art Under Control in North Korea here.  If you are interested in buying authentic North Korean paintings, contact the Pyongyang Art Studio.

UPDATE: Here are some exapmles from the BBC.


Tom and Jerry

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008


I am told that in the 1980s Tom and Jerry was a poplar show on DPRK and USSR state television.  In the DPRK they even kept the names Tom and Jerry.


GPI Consultancy: Economic Mission to North-Korea

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

Netherlands Centrum voor Handelsbevordering
27 September – 4 October 2008  
View the information flyer with more information here: it-tour_dprk.pdf

For the past decades, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) also known as North-Korea has been one of the most isolated countries in the world. Until recently, foreign companies could hardly enter this country. Inspired by the economic successes of its neighbouring country China, North-Korea has since a few years opened its doors for foreign enterprises. The DPRK established several free trade zones to attract foreign investors. In 2002 North Korea started to experiment with the Kaesong Industrial Region, near the South-Korean border. Moreover, other areas were designated as Special Administrative Regions, such as Sinŭiju near the border with China.
Currently, China and South-Korea are the most important trade partners of North-Korea; their mutual trade is growing fast. Also for European companies there are many opportunities to trade with North-Korea. During the recent seminar: ‘Doing Business with North-Korea’ (The Hague, 30 May) the representative from North-Korea highlighted that there are business opportunities in several fields, including Textile Industry, Shipbuilding, Agro Business, Logistics and Information Technology.

DPRK finds itself at the beginning of a new era of openness. In North-Korea there is a need for many foreign products and investments. The Chamber of Commerce Amsterdam, GPI Consultancy and the Netherlands Council for Trade Promotion are organizing an economic mission to investigate the business opportunities for foreign companies in this country. This unique economic mission to North-Korea will take place from 27 September to 4 October 2008. Our partner in North-Korea is the Pyongyang Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Renze Hasper, Member of the Board of the Chamber of Commerce Amsterdam, will be the mission leader of this economic mission. 
The program includes individual matchmaking, company visits, network receptions and dinners. Furthermore, a visit is being planned tot the Kaesong Industrial Region.

GPI Consultancy is responsable for the IT-program of the mission. As an example, the program for the IT-delegates has been attached; they will visit firms in Pyongyang in the field of software development, animation, cartoons, computer games and BPO (Business Process Outsourcing). Similar matchmaking visits will be arranged for delegates from other business sectors.
The mission is open for participants from other countries as well.
If you are interested in joining this trade mission, please contact:

Paul Tjia
GPI Consultancy
P.O. Box 26151,
3002 ED Rotterdam,
The Netherlands
E-mail: [email protected]
tel: +31-10-4254172 
fax: +31-10-4254317