Still photos aired on the North Korean state TV show performers dressed as Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh, dancing at a concert attended by the youthful North Korean leader Kim Jung Un.
The performers dressed as Disney characters included Minnie Mouse and Tigger. They danced and frolicked on stage while footage from "Snow White," "Dumbo," "Beauty and the Beast," and other Disney movies played on a large screen.
AP reports that inclusion of the Disney characters in major North Korean concerts is unusual, although Winnie the Pooh and Mickey Mouse are popular characters among North Korean children. Children's imported personal effects, including backpacks, pencil cases and pajamas often feature Disney characters.
BBC reports that a Disney spokesperson said it had not licensed or authorised the use of the characters in the show. While U.S. sanctions prohibit importation of North Korean goods into the U.S., it does not ban sales of American consumer products in North Korea.
The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reports the performance was staged on Friday by the Moranbong band which was assembled by Kim a few months after he took power following the death of his father Kim Jong Il in December. The performance was the group's debut.
According to KCNA, Kim has "grandiose plan to bring about a dramatic turn in the field of literature and arts this year."
KCNA reports the concert included traditional folk tunes such s "Arirang" and other "upbeat" foreign songs. South Korean expert in North Korean affairs, Professor Koh Yu-hwan, says that featuring Disney characters in a major concert suggests that Kim Jong Un may be seeking to ease restrictions on Western culture imposed by his father and grandfather.
According to the BBC, North Korean entertainment has traditionally featured nationalist or folk songs in the effort to combat what officials say is "spiritual pollution" from the West. It is still illegal to watch South Korean television programmes in North Korea. But information from North Korean refugees indicates that North Koreans now have more access to the foreign media, especially DVDs of popular South Korean drama serials.