Iconic South Korean penguin character actually half-North Korean

Mon May 16, 2011 6:08am EDT
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By Ju-min Park

SEOUL (Reuters Life!) - He's roly poly, wears a yellow aviator's helmet and orange goggles, and is everywhere in South Korea. But the cartoon character Pororo the Little Penguin also had a secret in his past: his origins are half-North Korean.

The recent revelations surprised South Korea, where the mischievous penguin character, whose films have been exported to over 100 countries, is so beloved he's known as "the children's President" because his influence is said to be greater than the nation's real leader.

But as time passes the fact of his ancestry has won Pororo new fans -- and prompted some to call for him to help make the to call for his help in making the two neighbors one again.

"Pororo, you are the real president of the Korean peninsula," one blog comment read.

Pororo, who first debuted in 2003, is ubiquitous in South Korea, featured on everything from stick-on bandages to coffee mugs. Stamps with his image have sold more than those bearing the image of Olympic figure-skating champion Kim Yu-na, according to local media.

But few knew that North Korean cartoonists worked with their Southern counterparts to jointly produce part of the first two seasons of the television series that launched the bird to fame.

"This isn't something that needs to be secret but by accident people found out that Pororo was partly produced in the North," said Kim Jong-se, a senior official at Iconix Entertainment, the South Korean production company that developed Pororo.

"They gave us many responses, from very negative to very positive -- we are a collaborator of the North or, it is great that both Koreas made the show together."   Continued...

<p>A baby looks at the cartoon character Pororo at a book store in Seoul May 16, 2011. REUTERS/Truth Leem</p>