Popular Children’s Cartoons in North Korea
Translation Courtesy of Sunghee Hwang
What are the most popular animations in North Korea?
Most people will have at least one cartoon that they were fond of as a child. In South Korea, cartoons like ‘Dooly the Little Dinosaur,’ ‘Duchi & Puku,’ and ‘Run, Hani’ enjoyed great popularity in the past. Today, animations such as ‘Larva’ and ‘The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow’ are some of the favorites among South Korean children. Then what kinds of animations are popular in North Korea? Let us take a closer look at the animations that rank top among North Korean children.
The Teenage General
The Teenage General has been a favorite cartoon among North Korea children since the 1980s. Preparations for its production began in the late 1970s. It was settled to become a 10-episode series and the production of five episodes wascomplete by February 1988. Upon Kim Jong Il’s command to make a sequel, the production of ‘The Teenage General’ continued until 1997. In fact, ‘The Teenage General’ is the most extensive narrative animation work in North Korea.‘The Teenage General’ is based during the Goguryeo era. The first episode, ‘The Father’s sword,’ is about a boy who inherits his father’s sword after he dies on the battlefield. The boy decides to become a general to defend Goguryeo, just like hisfather did. Upon his mother’s advice to compete in a hunting contest to become a respectable general, the boy takes off after training. By basing the story during the powerful Goguryeo era, ‘The Teenage General’ depicts the mentality and actions of a person who is destined to save his country in despair.
The Clever Raccoon
‘The Clever Raccoon’ was aired on North Korea’s state-run Korean Central Television from 1987 to 2005. It is fair to say the work, which was introduced in the late 1980s, opened a new chapter in North Korean animation. ‘The Clever Raccoon’stars an adorable raccoon and his animal friends that take on a new challenge and overcome them in each episode. Last February, Reporter Park Chanmi met with North Korean defector Shin, who lived in Pyongyang until he was 17-years-old and defected to the South in 2007. Shin said when he was in Pyongyang, the happiest moment was when he was watching ‘The Clever Raccoon.’ He reminisced on his childhood memories, saying he misses the times when he sang and danced to the theme song of ‘The Clever Raccoon’ with his friends.
Squirrels and Porcupine
‘Squirrels and Porcupines’ was the first animation to debut in North Korea as a four-episode series from 1977 to 1982. ‘Squirrels and Porcupines’ remains popular until this day among adults as well as teenagers. According to an article published on the Choson Shinbo on February 2nd and porcupines battling their enemy – weasels and rats – to defend their hill. Although the main characters are animals, they are idolized among North Korean children as they are dressed in military uniforms. The motive behind depicting animals as soldiers is to plant the values of the Songun politics, or military-first politics, in North Korean children. Animals that are weak but brave like squirrels, porcupines, rabbits and ducks represent the North Korean people. Rats, which are poor but mean, depict the South Korean people. Weasels, which control the rats, are the South Korean leadership. The United States is represented by the weasels’ main ally, the coyotes and the red fox officer, which is the most popular character.
Thus, ‘Squirrels and Porcupine’ may look like any other animation works, but, is in fact, one that bluntly reflects international situation, 2005, the animation is about a team of squirrels. We have just taken a walk through North Korea’s most popular cartoons. It is surprising to see that such a variety of cartoons exist in North Korea. What is more surprising to know is that there is an animation work that has been jointly produced by the two Koreas being aired in South Korea. Most South Koreans will be familiar with ‘Pororo the Little Penguin. Thanks to its huge popularity among South Korean children, Pororo has earned the nickname ‘the president of the children.’ ‘Pororo the Little Penguin’ is about Pororo and his friends who live in a village that is covered in snow and ice all throughout the year. Pororo’s stardom extends across the globe. The work has been exported to 82 countries and has secured an average viewership of 47 percent. The initial planning of ‘Pororo the Little Penguin’ was conducted by South Korean entertainment firm Iconix and was jointly produced by South Korea’s Ocon, SK Broadband and EBS, and North Korea’s Samcholli General Corporation. There are many North Koreans who are talented in animation production but the communist regime lacks the technology to support them. ‘Pororo the Little Penguin’ is an outstanding example of a successful inter-Korean cooperation project. South Korea was able to use North Korean talent at a cheap price, while North Korea had an opportunity to learn South Korea’s IT technology and apply it in developing its own animation industry.
How would the reunification of the Korean peninsula affect the two Koreas’ animation industry?
I am already looking forward it because I think many more animation works will be produced. By taking a closer look at popular cartoons in North Korea and reviewing an inter-Korean animation work, reporters Kim Hong and Park Chanmipledged to view diverse North Korean cartoons upon reunification. Why don’t you join in?