Otaku USA Magazine
Report Says North Korean Animators Might Be Working in Anime, Breaking Sanctions

38 North, a program from the Stimson Center think tank that analyzes what’s going on in North Korea, recently reported that North Koreans animators have been working on shows in other countries, including U.S. shows and anime in Japan. The reason this is news is because United States and United Nations sanctions forbid this, and hiring these employees could get the companies in trouble. According to the report, it appears that the anime Dahlia in Bloom: Crafting a Fresh Start With Magical Tools and the anime studio EKACHI EPILKA were among those affected.

Since the report came out, the Dahlia in Bloom crew and EKACHI EPILKA both offered official responses.

The Dahlia in Bloom crew announced that they’re investigating and that “neither the production committee nor the production studio were aware of the information.”

EKACHI EPILKA, meanwhile, declared that it had layout sheets used without proper license, and that they haven’t “placed orders” with any companies in North Korea.

The 38 report does note that even if Dahlia in Bloom, EKACHI EPILKA and the others involved did hire North Korean animators, they were probably unaware:

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. . .

In mid-2022, the US government warned companies about the possibility of inadvertently hiring North Korean IT workers, including animators, when looking for remote contractors. An advisory warned that doing so could put the companies at risk of a breach of US and United Nations sanctions.

It noted North Korean workers frequently “misrepresent themselves as foreign (non-North Korean) or US-based teleworkers” and might use VPNs or other methods to make it appear as if they are from and residing in another country.

Source: 38 North, ANN


Danica Davidson is the author of the bestselling Manga Art for Beginners with artist Melanie Westin, plus its sequel, Manga Art for Everyone, and the first-of-its-kind manga chalk book Chalk Art Manga, both illustrated by professional Japanese mangaka Rena Saiya. Check out her other comics and books at www.danicadavidson.com.