North Korea TV hides anti-US message in kids' cartoon

By News from Elsewhere... found by BBC Monitoring

Image source, Korea Central TV
Image caption, The wily hedgehog teaches the big orange tiger a lesson

A children's cartoon about a group of forest friends which aired today on North Korean state television appears to have come with an anti-America message.

To the outside observer, the home-produced cartoon "The Hedgehog Defeats the Tiger" looks like an earnest tale in which the tiny hedgehog uses his spines and his sharp wits to defeat the bullying big cat.

But in the bewildering world of the North Korean media, it appears that nothing happens by chance, and it looks like the programme was aired during Korean Central Television's children's hour as a commentary on recent tensions between Pyongyang and Washington.

In the cartoon based on an old folk fable, a group of forest friends led by a rabbit wearing a red armband are confronted by an arrogant, strutting tiger who tries to bully them into submission.

But he reckons without the tiny yet wily hedgehog, who curls into a ball for defence and defeats the tiger by digging its spines into his nose. As the bully flees, the somewhat fickle animals - who were initially but reluctantly on the side of the tiger - fete the victorious hedgehog for his bravery and tactical genius.

Who's the orange tiger?

This might have passed the world by if it were not for the publication of an article by state news agency KCNA, in which the cartoon is praised as a story for the ages, in which the orange tiger could be America, the other animals are the nations of the world, and the brave yet decidedly dangerous hedgehog represents North Korea.

Under the headline "US had better refrain from running amok", Kim Jong-son, a worker at the Pukchang Thermal Power Complex, told KCNA that current American "ignorance" of North Korea "makes me remember the fairy tale 'The Hedgehog Defeats the Tiger'".

"In sharp contrast to the brave hedgehog, the characters of big animals winced at the swashbuckling tiger, reminding me of the present reality where no-one questions America," Mr Kim said. "Watching them, I am very proud of the invincible might of my country".

In the past, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has urged the state-run studios making children's television to improve their quality and provide programming of greater relevance to young people in the country. "The Hedgehog defeats the Tiger" appears to be the result of this guidance.

But one constant remains for the youngsters watching state TV - Story-Telling Grandfather is still one of the few times you'll see facial hair in the country's tightly-controlled media.

Image source, Korea Central TV
Image caption, Our hero! The hedgehog is given the tiger's medal by Party-Member Rabbit
Image source, Korea Central TV
Image caption, Everybody is friends with the hedgehog after his crushing victory over the arrogant striped menace
Image source, Korea Central TV
Image caption, North Korean kids love Story-Telling Grandfather and his not entirely convincing beard

Reporting by Alistair Coleman

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