Highlights and the theme song from "Rocky 4" were played during a performance by the newly-created Moranbong troupe in front of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last Friday. The show also featured groups of female singers dressed in mini-skirts, high-heeled shoes or off-the-shoulder tops reminiscent of the girl groups of South Korea, and performers dressed as Disney characters.
North Korean Central TV, which had already aired highlights, broadcast the entire 100-minute program on Wednesday night. Around three minutes worth of scenes from the 1985 Sylvester Stallone movie were shown while 10 female instrumentalists played the theme song "Gonna Fly Now" on the electronic violin and other instruments.
The scenes included Rocky knocking the fearsome Soviet boxer Drago down with an almighty punch, but the defeat of a former communist ally by the forces of imperialism raised no eyebrows. To top it all, the troupe performed the Frank Sinatra hit "My Way." Kim was shown applauding and raising his thumb afterwards.
North Korean media described the performance as "totally new in style." Other top officials who watched the show included Kim's uncle Jang Song-taek, widely seen as the eminence grise of the regime, and Vice Marshal Choe Ryong-hae.
Pundits say the show catered to Kim's westernized tastes. He was an avid fan of American basketball when he was studying in Switzerland in the 1990s and wore Nike sneakers and drove Harley Davidson motorcycles. Kim's older brother Jong-chol was spotted attending an Eric Clapton concert in Singapore early last year.
But whether Kim's love of western culture will lead to reforms in North Korea remains to be seen. "Kim Jong-un has been using the phrase 'global trend' a lot these days and attending an unprecedented performance, which differs starkly from the behavior of previous North Korean leaders," said a Unification Ministry official. "But we have to wait and see whether this will lead to genuine reforms or was just a temporary move to win over the hearts and minds of North Koreans."