North Korea and Cuba’s ‘alarming’ ties


The new documentary “Under the Sun,” follows an 8-year-old North Korean girl named Zin-mi as she prepares to join the Korean Children’s Union, run by the Workers’ Party. Zin-mi and her parents — her mother works in a soy-milk plant, her father is an engineer at a garment factory — share abundant family meals, ride Pyongyang’s spotless subways and pay their respects at a bronze statue of North Korea’s founder, Kim Il-sung, The New York Times reports:

There’s just one problem: The action is fake. The North Korean government cast the film, wrote the script and provided guides to feed the actors their lines while managing every detail of the project. In reality, Zin-mi’s father is a journalist, and her mother a cafeteria worker. “Don’t act like you’re acting in a movie,” a guide scolds the girl at one point. “Act naturally, like you do at home.”

Extreme limitations called for extreme measures, so [the director Vitaly] Mansky employed the techniques of undercover journalism, The Times adds:

Unknown to the North Koreans, he left his cameras running all day, documenting each scene being set up, rehearsed and reshot. We watch a North Korean guide put workers through several takes at the milk plant until they display the proper level of enthusiasm.

“Comrades, today our workshop beat the government quota with 150 percent!” a seamstress announces at the garment factory. By the next take, production has risen to “200 percent over quota.” When Zin-mi (right) is asked how she feels about joining the Children’s Union, she is clearly overwhelmed by her new responsibilities, and two fat tears roll down her face. “Stop her crying,” a guide says off camera.

North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un met with a special envoy from Cuba, the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency reported Friday:

This is the second time that Kim Jong Un has met publicly with a delegation from Cuba. In October of last year, Kim met with a similar Cuban delegation, led by Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, first vice president of the Council of State and member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee….North Korea has worked to strengthen ties with Cuba amidst Havana’s improving relations with the United States, the long-time adversary of both Pyongyang and Havana.

While the Obama administration has removed Cuba from the state sponsors of terrorism list and taken a big stride toward lifting the Kennedy-era embargo on Cuba, Havana’s continued cooperation with Pyongyang is an alarming blow to the normalization process, one analyst recently observed. The current linkage between anti-Americanism and the Cuban Communist Party’s regime security makes a shift in Havana’s North Korea policy unlikely in the short-term.

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