North Korea Plagiarizes Sesame Street

A company in North Korea, a country known for faked U.S. currency, unicorn sightings and TIME's Person of the Year award, appears to have moved into the lucrative business of plagiarizing Big Bird.

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STAN HONDA / AFP / Getty

Big Bird and other Sesame Street puppet charactors pose next to temporary street sign November 9, 2009 at West 64th Street and Broadway in New York on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the broadcast of the children's television show.

A company in North Korea, a country known for faked U.S. currency, unicorn sightings and TIME’s Person of the Year award, appears to have moved into the lucrative business of plagiarizing Big Bird.

The Kyonghung Trading Corporation is advertising its own, unauthorized versions of Sesame Street stuffed toys, featuring characters like Big Bird, Cookie Monster and Elmo, in the North Korean quarterly Foreign Trade magazine. The company was established in 2005 and “employs a large number of toy experts and skilled workers with elaborate craftsmanship,”Kyonghung’s ad, spotted by NK News, reads. “Its annual output is hundreds of thousands of pieces.” The Pyongyang-based company is been producing the counterfeit toys for export abroad, prompting condemnation by Sesame Street copyright holdersSesame Workshop.

(MORE: The Tony Soprano of North Korea)

Sesame Workshop said it believed the toys were “unauthorized” in an emailed statement to Voice of America, adding that the North Korean knockoffs look “confusingly similar” to the licensed stuffed Big Birds manufactured by the New Jersey-based toymaker GUND.

U.S. sanctions against North Korea do not allow outsourcing to the repressive North Korean regime. In 2011, a BBC investigation revealed that some cashmere sweaters labelled “Made in Scotland” were in fact manufactured by North Korean workers at a Mongolian factory under questionable working conditions. North Korean workers in Mongolia “are monitored closely by ‘minders’ from their government, and many are believed to be subject to DPRK government pressure because of family members left behind in North Korea,” a U.S. diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks revealed. “The workers reportedly do not routinely receive direct and full salary payments.”

Since the U.S. and North Korea don’t have diplomatic relations, little can be done to prevent further counterfeiting. The case is reminiscent of another incident in July last year, when the U.S. media giant Walt Disney complained when the country’s 30 year-old dictator Kim Jong Un made a stage appearance in Pyongyang along with unlicensed versions of Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh.

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7 comments
mrbomb13
mrbomb13

If North Korea 1) didn't possess nuclear capabilities and 2) wasn't under Communist rule, that nation would mean absolutely nothing to American foreign policy.

HelmyElsaid
HelmyElsaid

The regime order(Legal case at USA court against Obama,UN,vodafone company-As my documents at:  www.helmyelsaid.blogspot.com)

kootenayredneck
kootenayredneck

I wonder then how many fake Kim Jong Un’s there are.

FelixAbt
FelixAbt

When it comes to North Korea sensationalist media quickly jump to conclusions.

While it cannot be ruled out that these Sesame toys were illegally produced in North Korea there is no evidence that a North Korean factory had made them either. A photo in a North Korean trade magazine is no proof. OEM manufacturers keep a lot of samples from various brand owners that they analyze and learn from. I also have seen OEM manufacturers in developing countries exhibit brand products (not made by them) in their showrooms. So, why the media hype if, for example, the toys just stemmed from China?

You also insinuate that North Koreans were faking their history by quoting the example of the ‘Unicorn’. Sure, while many of their claims are debatable ‘unicorn’ is an English translation of the word ‘Kirin’ which is the name of a mythical beast in Asian folklore as the North Korean news agency itself pointed out.

Another old allegation repeated by you is North Korea faking U.S. $ super notes. The Swiss Federal Police, the world’s best experts for bank notes printing, since more than ninety percent of the bank printing machines stem from Switzerland refuted the accusation already years ago. So did the South Korean spy agency. The renowned bank note expert Klaus Bender, a conservative and not a friend of the North Korean regime, has proven in his books and publications why North Korea is not able to do such counterfeiting.

Felix Abt, author of the book “A Capitalist in North Korea: My Seven Years in the Hermit Kingdom”


Heian
Heian like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@FelixAbt Going bottom-to-top, a shameless plug as such (especially for a book) should not immediately follow such a muddled paragraph.

Also, if a North Korean company who produces toys is advertising Sesame Street knock-offs, that is to say NOT in a showroom, but an actual, printed advertisement, they are making the claim themselves that they are producing the toys illegally. 

So if I may boil this down: You doubt that a company is doing something illegal, though they claim they are and even advertise it; You 'debunk' the unicorn portion by simply mentioning that unicorns have their name derived from an Asian word (stunning counterpoint, there); and your argument against counterfeit currency is rather vague and doesn't really address intaglio presses at all.