North Korea satellite in stable orbit; ‘Cartoon Network,’ ‘Comedy Central’ debut on public screens: U.S. sources

WASHINGTON | BY ANDREW SQUIBLEY AND ARTHUR BUSHMASTER (IN HIDING SOMEWHERE NEAR PYONGYANG)

12 FEBRUARY 2016, RUETERS NEWS AGENCY

North Korea’s recently launched satellite has achieved stable orbit and begun transmitting pirated signals from popular American television networks including TBS’s “Cartoon Network” and Viacom’s “Comedy Central,” US intelligence officials have confirmed.

“It’s in a stable orbit now. They got the tumbling under control,” a U.S. official said Thursday.

That is unlike the North’s previous satellite, launched in 2012, which never stabilized, the official said.

North Korean officials told a Rueters correspondent stationed near the country’s capital, Pyongyang, they considered the launch last Sunday of the “Kimchi One” rocket, loaded with 1960’s technology, an overwhelming success and major challenge to US “entertainment hegemony.”

“Why should the West have exclusive access to ‘Scooby Doo’ or old ‘Saturday Night Live’ reruns?  Who doesn’t want to see ‘Samurai Delicatessen’,” said one high-ranking North Korean military official shortly before he was led off to be executed.

“The US thinks we want to nuke them.  That’s crazy.  We just want to see what everyone is laughing at.  There’s not much laughing in this place, that’s for sure,” he told Rueters in apparently his final media interview.

US officials said North Koreans particularly love Margaret Cho, a Korean-American comedian whose stand-up routines and television appearances “really crack them up.”  Cho, who has won numerous awards for various comedic skits over the past 20 years, is loved in North Korea for her spot-on imitation of a television news anchor dressed in traditional garb.

North Korean on big screen
Korean-American comedian Margaret Cho “always cracks ’em up” every Saturday afternoon in Pyongyang’s main parking lot, North Korean officials confirm.  (Rueters Photo)

“On the down side,” said the US official, “they want to kill her for making fun of their supreme leader and his father.”

margaret cho army

Margaret Cho ready to lead North Korea’s May Day parade. (Rueters Photo)

U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with the leaders of South Korea and Japan by phone on Monday night and reassured them of Washington’s support, while also calling for a strong international response to the launch, the White House said.

Both South Korea and Japan have expressed concern that some of their favorite television programming may end up pirated and on gigantic public screens scattered throughout North Korea, as well.

South Koreans are particularly possessive of their long-running musical show, “Seoul Train,” and wouldn’t want it appearing at no charge in the North, officials told Rueters.  In Japan, the government is especially fearful new its mega-hit, “Godzilla v Zombies,” will be pirated, too.

Godzilla on screen

Japan’s new television mega-hit, “Godzilla v Zombies,” plays to packed audiences every week, officials told Reuters.  “We don’t want those North Koreans stealing our valuable intellectual property,” they said.  (Rueters Photo) 

In a show of solidarity against copyright infringement, the White House said Thursday Obama will address North Korea’s “provocations” when he hosts the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in California early next week.

The United States and China, Pyongyang’s only major ally, are negotiating the outline of a new U.N. sanctions resolution that diplomats hope will be adopted this month.

US officials have complained privately about China’s “tepid” response to North Korea’s pirating of popular US televisions shows.  “They’re not worried,” one official speaking off the record told Rueters.  “Who gives a s—t about Chinese television?  It’s all about keeping their families small.  How many times can you watch ‘Three’s Company’ and ‘Full House’”?

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