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New Report Suspects North Korean Animators Of Working On Anime Projects Despite Sanctions




A recent research report released by the U.S. based website ’38 North’ has shed light on a startling revelation that North Korean animators are suspected to have contributed to animation projects produced by Japanese and U.S. studios, despite ongoing sanctions against engaging in business with North Korea.

A report published on April 22, 2024, indicated that North Korean animators contributed to projects such as ‘Dahliya In Bloom,’ an upcoming anime series slated to premiere in July, and the third season of ‘Invincible,’ produced by California-based Skybound Entertainment and set to air on Amazon Prime.

In addition to the aforementioned projects, the report also identified other materials linked to Japanese animation studio Ekachi Epilka, as well as video files resembling content from The Octonauts, a popular BBC children’s cartoon.

This was first discovered by Nick Roy, who operates the NK Internet blog. He stumbled upon a North Korean server overflowing with animation files. Apparently, this server wasn’t so secure, allowing anyone to peek into the daily workflow. The files contained instructions for animation work and completed projects, suggesting North Korean animators were contributing to international productions.

The log files from the North Korean servers revealed multiple visits to it from internet connections from China, suggesting that workers in China may have been passing information on to their North Korean counterparts.

While the identity of the North Korean partner remained undisclosed in the documentation, all signs pointed towards the involvement of the April 26 Animation Studio, also known as SEK Studio, North Korea’s top animation house based in Pyongyang. Interestingly, they’ve collaborated internationally before, including projects with South Korea during the “Sunshine Policy” era.

However, it has been under US sanctions since 2016 for its ties to the North Korean government. The US government had imposed further sanctions on Chinese companies involved with the studio or serving as intermediaries, once in 2021 and again in 2022.

In 2016 Japan had also imposed sanctions against North Korea.

Notably, there is no evidence suggesting that the companies involved were aware of subcontracting to North Korean animators. Given that editing comments were written in Chinese, it is likely that contracting arrangements were several steps removed from the major producers.

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According to CNN’s report, the North Koreans have a lot of software companies set up in China that act as kind of fronts and will send information, send work back to Pyongyang, where the work is done. Additionally, movie studios and animation have been used as a vehicle for propaganda and a source of revenue for the North Korean regime.

Source: 38 North, CNN

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