Disney in the DPRK, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (Chosŏn’gŭl), took center stage a couple of weeks ago in a public performance attended by NoKor President Kim Jung Un and an unidentified escort. The press typically focused on the escort, ignoring the significance of having two of America’s preeminent anthropomorphic creatures on stage on what is still in U.S. foreign affairs’ papers an evil and terrorist empire.
Mickey Mouse debuted in 1928 and we know that the late Walt Disney referred to the largest media conglomerate in the world (in terms of revenue) as "having all started with a mouse." Mickey remains Disney’s undisputed mascot.
More reflective and sedate compared to the mouse’s wild and wooly antics is Winnie the Pooh. Originally hyphenated as Winnie-Pooh, the other cartoon creature actually preceded Mickey by four years in publication.
Both are American cartoon characters of choice, with Mickey riding the hoods of truckers and car bumper stickers in the American south, while Winnie the Pooh inspires poems and books in universities from Russia to Australia. Either way, both are as American as motherhood and apple pie.
So what were they doing prancing around the stage in North Korea, entertaining no less than the sovereign head of a belligerent state and his unidentified escort in a high profile event?
Media’s speculation focused on the escort, who could very well be both half-sister and paramour. Why not? Abraham and Sarah were half-siblings. The pharaoh’s in Egypt were incestuous, so were Hawaiian, Balinese and Inuit royalties. Europe’s royal houses had not been immune to kinship cohabitation, and clan incestuous relation is not unheard of among dynastic lines. If you think this is out of line, we can level the same charge against our mainstream media’s speculations.
(BTW, South Korea named Kim’s wife since 2009 as Hong, a PhD holder who bore the leader a daughter in 2010.They have been seen in public three times of late, first at the aforementioned entertainment event, then at the 18th death anniversary of grandpa Kim Il Sung, and third, while visiting a kindergarten where she wore a more feminine pink attire.)
Destabilizing regimes is an old tactic. In some of the peaceful protest gatherings in the '60s, it was not unusual to have a rowdy and loquacious participant in a crowd out to foment violent dissent, planted by authorities to cause trouble for organizers and their nonviolent actions.
The recent "retirement" of Vice Marshal Ri Yong Ho, Chief of the Korean People's Army General Staff, a member of the Presidium of the Politburo, as well as a Vice Chairman in the Central Military Commission, and all posts, is reportedly due to “illness.” Erstwhile a military adviser to the young Kim, the "banishment" of the 69-year-old general is a recent example on how our press continuous to show dissension where it may not be present. In our passion for regime change, e.g., Syria, the repetition of speculations has proven to be an effective tactic.
Calling the dismissal of a prominent Presidium member like Ri in the DPKR might very well be appropriate and accurate but it is only one scenario among many. It is known that the young head of the Presidium has articulated a strategy that will move away from NoKor’s "military first" national priority into a massive construction effort to stimulate the national economy. Replacing Marshall Ri by a civilian noted more for his political policy bent rather than military background is very telling.
But we would rather polish the alleged dissension within the ranks, illness as euphemism for getting deposed, rather than a possible shift in policy in a time of transition and great turning.
Still, Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh remain as loveable characters that children of our enemies have embraced. I visited my young oral English student’s daycare dwelling (his auntie's house) to take pictures of familiar scenes and objects to relate words to his vocabulary. Sitting right in the living room is the cuddly teddy bear. We are winning the hearts and minds of our "foes" without wasting a shot of lead.
Might not the presence of Mickey and Winnie in the heart of Kim Jung Un’s entertainment lair be an indication of his party’s willingness to appease our belligerent nature and let our mascots into their national consciousness? Mickey and Winnie seem to be doing a better job than Hillary’s State Department!
Ralph Lauren just draped our Olympic athletes with chic and pleasantly designed berets and uniforms from China. It is just possible that we eschewed Savile Row for Champ Elyseé, and we all know that France’s fashion catwalks outsource jobs to Hu Jintao’s tailoring shops. I mean, have you tried wearing attire from the mills of the Piedmont, or the factories out of Wisconsin? Indiana cotton might be a preferred work cloth but if we want to look good in London, China silk beats the competition hands down.
Now, a word on Kim Jung Un’s construction effort. Have you seen any of Juche (aka Chuch’e, self-reliance) Lego products lately? It looks like the Danes have a leg up on the competition. No edge for Halliburton on this one.