UK sent BBC's Sherlock to North Korea

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in Sherlock The Sherlock screening was 'a small part of a cultural exchange programme'

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The UK government organised a screening of BBC TV drama Sherlock in North Korea in the hope of "encouraging change" in the country, it has been revealed.

The programme was shown in 2012 at a film festival in the capital Pyongyang.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said it was "one of the things we have done to encourage North Korea to be more open to the outside world".

The screening was revealed in a document detailing the FCO's activities in the normally insular country.

The document, which was published in response to a Freedom of Information request, showed that the FCO paid £287.33 for "rights to BBC Sherlock Holmes Series".

The reason given was: "Encouraging change."

'Different perspective'

It was listed among 34 educational, diplomatic and humanitarian initiatives.

An FCO spokesperson said: "Most North Koreans have never seen anything other than domestic, Soviet or Chinese films.

"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."

The Pyongyang International Film Festival is held every two years and is a rare opportunity for North Korean audiences to watch carefully selected Western titles.

Global hit

Other films screened at the 2012 event included British romantic comedy The Decoy Bride, starring David Tennant and Kelly Macdonald; Jet Li's martial arts film Flying Swords of Dragon Gate; and French comedy The Women on the 6th Floor.

The FCO document did not specify whether a single Sherlock episode was included or a whole series.

But in the first episode of the third series, Sherlock Holmes, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, identifies a British minister and peer as a North Korean spy who attempts to blow up Parliament.

The BBC declined to comment on the screening.

Sherlock has been a big hit around the world. In China, it is among the most popular TV imports and Cumberbatch has been nicknamed Curly Fu.

The BBC has just confirmed that the show will return for a one-off special in 2015, followed by a fourth series.

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