Turns Out Animation May Be the Great Funding Source for North Korea

Chaosamran_Studio / shutterstock.com
Chaosamran_Studio / shutterstock.com

The US has been investigating the numerous ways North Korea has been sustaining itself despite numerous international sanctions and having very few trade partners. Among the watchdog groups monitoring the hermit nation is 38 North. Now, the DC-based group has discovered evidence of Western film companies using North Korea to animate their films.

One of the blockbusters uncovered was Amazon’s Invincible. 38 West discovered evidence of other projects in conjunction with cybersecurity firm Mandiant as they accessed a North Korean cloud server back in 2023. Uncovered by a Boston-area man named Nick Roy, the server seemed abandoned but could still be accessed. With improperly set up security, it was easy to access and view without a password.

Finding data flowing in both directions with significant Chinese writing about notes on changes to make, indications pointed to it belonging to April 26 Animation or SEK. Known as the “premier animation house” in North Korea, they are responsible for most of the cartoons (stuffed with propaganda) coming out of North Korea. They were also behind multiple South Korean projects before the latest iteration of sanctions.

Hidden amongst the files that Mandiant and 38 West combed through were server logs that suggest Chinese companies are organizing deals with them. Then, they would resell the work to American, British, and Japanese film companies, circumventing the laws to get cheap animation in bulk. Going through multiple layers to conceal the source of the animation, the North Korean company did its best to avoid detection.

As 38 West noted, “There is no evidence to suggest that the companies identified in the images had any knowledge that a part of their project had been subcontracted to North Korean animators. In fact, as the editing comments on all the files, including those related to US-based animations, were written in Chinese, it is likely that the contracting arrangement was several steps downstream from the major producers.”

It certainly explains a lot and honestly feeds the notion that outside sources are not only running Hollywood but also eroding America’s foundation.