Daniel W. Drezner

Kim Jong Un’s Disney Kryptonite?

Foreign policy wonks and international relations scholars have summer daydreams just like everyone else.  So I can only imagine what my colleagues thought when they read about the latest TV special in Pyongyang: After a failed missile launching, aborted diplomacy with Washington, and continuing international pressure over the country’s nuclear program, North Korea’s untested young ...

Foreign policy wonks and international relations scholars have summer daydreams just like everyone else.  So I can only imagine what my colleagues thought when they read about the latest TV special in Pyongyang:

After a failed missile launching, aborted diplomacy with Washington, and continuing international pressure over the country’s nuclear program, North Korea’s untested young leader has tried once again to take a dramatic step with his isolated, impoverished nation, this time with a bit of unapproved help from Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh.

North Korean state-run television on Monday showed footage of costumed versions of Tigger, Minnie Mouse and other Disney characters prancing in front of the leader Kim Jong-un, and an entourage of clapping generals.

Foreign policy wonks and international relations scholars have summer daydreams just like everyone else.  So I can only imagine what my colleagues thought when they read about the latest TV special in Pyongyang:

After a failed missile launching, aborted diplomacy with Washington, and continuing international pressure over the country’s nuclear program, North Korea’s untested young leader has tried once again to take a dramatic step with his isolated, impoverished nation, this time with a bit of unapproved help from Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh.

North Korean state-run television on Monday showed footage of costumed versions of Tigger, Minnie Mouse and other Disney characters prancing in front of the leader Kim Jong-un, and an entourage of clapping generals.

The footage also showed Mr. Kim in a black Mao suit watching as Mickey Mouse conducted a group of young women playing violins in skimpy black dresses. At times, scenes from the animated Disney movies “Dumbo” and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” were projected on a multipanel screen behind the entertainers; an article in the state-run press said unnamed foreign songs were on the bill.

The appearance of the characters from the United States, North Korea’s mortal enemy, was remarkable fare on tightly controlled North Korean television, which usually shows more somber and overtly political programs. A Disney spokeswoman, Zenia Mucha, had no comment Monday beyond a statement: “This was not licensed or authorized by the Walt Disney Company.”….

The performance was not the first time the Kim dynasty’s fate had been entwined with Disney. In 2001, the current leader’s older brother, Kim Jong-nam, was apparently banished from the line of succession after being detained by the Japanese authorities while trying to enter Japan on a Dominican Republic passport to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

If you look at Sky News’ YouTube clip of the show, it does seem like there’s a whole Disney Princess theme going on as well: 

 

 

The BBC reports that this production "seems to point to an easing of North Korea’s paranoia about what it calls spiritual pollution from the West."  Or… a Kim obsession with Disney.  Take your pick. 

In full summer daydream mode, I think this is an outstanding opportunity to pursue unconventional statecraft towards Pyongyang.  Clearly, there’s something about Disney that renders the Kim family weak at the knees.  Clearly, the best way to exploit this vulnerability is to have the State Department commission Disney to make a film containing Zoolander-like subliminal images that target the Kim family in particular to subvert their own regime.  We know (sorta) that Disney has done this before.  We know that even someone as wide-eyed as Katy Perry can be weaponized.  Why shouln’t the United States exploit its soft power and deploy the Disney Gambit against the Kims? 

Because it’s the summer and I’m lazy In the interest of participatory policymaking,  I hereby encourage readers to submit their own plots and subliminal messaged ideas in the comment stream.  Let’s make this manipulation of Kim Jong Un a reality! 

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. He blogged regularly for Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2014. Twitter: @dandrezner

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