Is new North Korean leader Kim Jong-un signaling that he will be more benevolent than his predecessors or that he will open the Hermit Kingdom to the outside world? Some in the media would have you think so.
At a Pyongyang concert by an artistic troupe he created, the young dictator was serenaded with performances by Disney characters including Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, and Tigger. The show included footage from Snow White, Dumbo, and Beauty and the Beast. Disney quickly issued a statement that the performance “was not licensed or authorized by the Walt Disney Company.”
Some seriously interpret the inclusion of Disney characters in an official performance as a sign that Kim Jong-un, who was educated in Switzerland during his teen years, will be more amenable to allowing Western influence and potentially economic reforms into his country. The BBC interprets it as “an easing of North Korea’s paranoia about what it calls spiritual pollution from the West.”
Since assuming power, Kim has actively sought to portray a more dynamic and pragmatic image than his reclusive father Kim Jong-il. But lest anyone think North Korea has embraced “It’s a Small World” as its new warmhearted national anthem, the official state-run media site still extols such banner headlines as “Let Us Cut Off Windpipes of the [South Korean President] Lee Myung Bak-led Swarm of Rats.”
The regime has called for the assassination of President Lee, accompanied by an inflammatory series of gory cartoons. In April, the Korean army general staff threatened “special actions” that “will reduce all the rat-like groups and the bases for provocations to ashes in three or four minutes,” even providing the geographic coordinates of South Korea’s conservative media outlets.
Kim Jong-un ordered the April 2012 launch of a long-range ballistic missile that was yet another North Korean violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. During the past two years, Kim has overseen the brutal purges of hundreds of potential rivals, including one military official who was executed using a mortar round in line with Kim’s orders to leave “no trace of him behind, down to his hair.”
Jong-un has also been credited with masterminding North Korea’s two acts of war in 2010: sinking the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan and shelling a civilian-inhabited island, which left 50 South Korean citizens dead.
Perhaps Jong-un’s fascination with Disney shouldn’t be surprising. Japanese media have reported that Jong-un secretly visited Tokyo Disneyland as a child in 1991 using a false identity. He had better luck than his elder stepbrother Kim Jong-nam, who was arrested and deported by Japanese authorities in 2001 for using a fake Dominican passport to sneak into the country to go to Tokyo Disneyland. Kim Jong-il, who had a collection of 30,000 movies, reportedly made his subordinates watch Disney’s The Lion King because he loved the themes of filial loyalty and dynastic succession.
Since the Obama Administration and United Nations have been so reluctant to impose additional sanctions on North Korea and its enablers for repeatedly violating international law and U.N. resolutions, perhaps the most effective course of action would be to unleash Disney’s lawyers on the regime. The corporation has acquired a reputation for ruthlessly going after any violators of its intellectual property rights.
North Korea has shown a disdain for threats by the Obama Administration, but maybe it wouldn’t be so willing to stand up to a bunch of high-paid lawyers. Maybe they could even get North Korea to turn over their nukes in return for opening Pyongyang Disneyland.