Sherlock used to “encourage change” in North Korea

A new Foreign and Commonwealth Office document reveals the BBC1 drama was screened at a 2012 film festival in the capital Pyongyang where David Tennant comedy The Decoy Bride was also shown


When the UK government took part in a programme to “encourage change” in North Korea, they called upon the assistance of a British literary great.


Who, you ask? Here are some clues… He’s got brains, he’s got style, he’s got a mind palace. He is, of course, Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle’s super detective.

It’s Holmes’s most recent incarnation that’s been shipped across the seas to the insular state where a screening of BBC1’s Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman took place at the Pyonyang International Film Festival – an event held every two years in the nation’s capital city and a rare opportunity for North Koreans to watch carefully-selected films from around the world.

A document released by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) reveals a sum of £287.33 was paid for the “rights to BBC Sherlock Holmes Series” – one of several initiatives launched by the FCO to “encourage North Korea to be more open to the outside world”.

“Most North Koreans have never seen anything other than domestic, Soviet or Chinese films,” said an FCO spokesperson. “Participating in the film festival in 2012 was a small part of a cultural exchange programme we have with North Korea to show a different perspective of the outside world than they are normally shown.”

Other films screened alongside Sherlock included David Tennant’s British rom-com The Decoy Bride and Jet Li’s martial arts flick Flying Swords of Dragon Gate.


It is not clear which Sherlock episode was screened or whether audiences viewed more than one instalment. The first episode of series three – first shown in the UK on 1 January 2014 – saw a British minister and peer revealed as a North Korean spy attempting to blow up the Houses of Parliament.