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BY DAISUKE NISHIMURA THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

2010/03/26

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SHENYANG, China--For North Koreans, the year 2012 has a significance that would be unthinkable in any other culture as it marks the centennial of the birth of the country's enigmatic founder, Kim Il Sung.

That a Hollywood director has come out with a disaster flick titled "2012" has apparently made Pyongyang very antsy.

The anniversary is so significant that a movie whose theme is about the world coming to an end in that fateful year is unacceptable as far as North Korea is concerned.

According to sources with good contacts on daily activities in the reclusive country, citizens caught viewing pirated copies of the apocalyptic science fiction movie directed by Roland Emmerich have been arrested.

Numerous arrests have occurred across the country, the sources say.

According to the sources, a man living in a city in the northern part of the country was arrested in February after an acquaintance alerted the authorities that the man had obtained a pirated DVD of the 2009 movie from an undisclosed source in China.

The man was told after he was arrested that viewing the movie constituted "a grave provocation against the development of the state."

The sources said the man risked being imprisoned for "five years or more."

2012 is said to be the year the ancient Mayan calendar reaches the end of a full cycle. Prophesies based on this are the theme of the movie, which follows a handful of people who struggle to survive a "global cataclysm" of massive earthquakes, huge tidal waves and immense volcanic eruptions that snub out nearly all of mankind.

Pirated copies have been filtering into North Korea from China.

Pyongyang has designated the centennial of Kim's birth as "the year for opening the grand gates to becoming a rising superpower." Thus, Pyongyang deems it untimely to declare 2012 as the end of the world.

Kim died in 1994 and was succeeded by his son, Kim Jong Il. Both Kims are revered in North Korea. The current leader is said to be a huge fan of Western cinema.

Ironically, North Korea has been plunged into crisis after a string of failed state programs aimed at achieving the 2012 slogan.

Those include the "150-day battle," a labor campaign in 2009 that imposed harsher conditions on workers in the name of raising productivity, and the re-denomination of the won to 1 percent of its original value, which severely reduced the purchasing power of ordinary citizens.

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