Pyongyang swings to Kim's new vibe

SEOUL - It might not be Lady Gaga's pop music extravaganza rolling into town, but North Korea's young dictator is taking unprecedented steps to breathe some fun into his repressive regime, helped by women rock stars in miniskirts and killer heels, and cultural icons from the usually reviled United States.

Kim Jong-un, the late-20s head of state who took over the family dynasty last December, gave the performance a thumbs up at the end. The gerontocrats who make up the ruling elite in the hermit nation also applauded enthusiastically, according to an hour and forty minutes of footage released on Thursday by North Korea's state broadcaster KRT.

There was even a love interest, and an element of mystery. Who was the attractive woman accompanying the third Kim to rule North Korea - his wife, lover or sister?

Some observers in South Korea have speculated she is a singer he dated years ago before his father put a stop to it, but now back on the scene.

Whatever her identity, the young Kim's glitzy approach is, at least on the surface, a sharp change from his father Kim Jong-il whose dour rule took North Korea deeper into isolation, abject poverty and large-scale political repression.

Kim Jong-un's brief rule since his father's death last December has sprung many surprises.

Once the official mourning period was over, the youngest Kim to rule North Korea was seen laughing with fusty old generals, gesticulating in delight at a military parade and, the biggest shock of all, speaking. Most North Koreans went to their graves never having seen Kim the elder speak.

The unusual gala performance took place on Saturday and featured Walt Disney's "It's A Small World", a thumping rock version of the theme tune to "Rocky" and Frank Sinatra's "My Way", a song that might have particular appeal to the Kim family, whose word is law in North Korea.

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