THE DISNEY CONNECTION

Bizarrely for a state which frequently and vociferously voices its loathing for all things American, it featured a cast of Disney characters, including Winnie the Pooh and Minnie Mouse. The family does have a previous Disney connection: the ruler's elder brother, Kim Jong-nam, said he was on his way to Tokyo Disneyland when he was caught illegally entering Japan in 2001.

"North Korea, which has long lambasted Yankee culture, played American iconic songs and movies and disclosed the performance through its official TV channel. That shows Kim Jong-un is readying for cultural reform and opening," said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

While the Kims and the carefully chosen elite live in luxury, most North Koreans live on the verge of starvation and often rely on relatives who have fled to the prosperous South to help them feed them, and buy essential drugs.

Before the Swiss-educated Kim Jong-un took power, what passed for entertainment for most North Koreans were patriotic films, circuses and magic shows, all showcasing the virtues of the regime that took over North Korea after World War Two.

The annual mass games, synchronised events featuring thousand of choreographed athletes have featured pandas dedicated to China, its only ally and major economic backer.

At times when relations between the North and South, currently at a low ebb, are better, South Korean bands have performed there.

"Honestly, it was so stiff that it scared me," Ock Joo-hyun, a member of South Korean girl band Fin.K.L said in a TV documentary programme, recalling the challenge of performing in front of Northern stern-faced audience in 1999.

"We were told to not show too much so we all put on long skirts."

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