Go to contents

North Korea Shows Unusual Generosity

Posted December. 06, 2005 06:47,   


North Korean performers who participated in the mass gymnastics performance Arirang have reportedly hit the jackpot. “All the performers were given China-made sewing machines and a quantity of sweets on November 4 right after the end of the festival,” said a source close to North Korea yesterday. “Service medals (the lowest grade medal) were also given to them, even to preschool children.”

This year’s Arirang Festival ran from August 16 to October 30 and had 62 days of performances. It staged some 52,000 performers and attracted a record level of 2.2 million spectators. It drew huge media attention in South Korea, as some 8,000 South Korean tourists visited the North to watch it.

It is telling that all 52,000 performers were awarded sewing machines. In the communist state, where clothes are high-priced, a sewing machine is worth a spot on the major asset list of any household, along with a TV and bicycle. People use sewing machines not only to make or mend clothes, but also to remake old clothes, turning them inside out and sewing them again.

It was very generous for the North Korean authorities to present such “valuable items” in accordance with the size of the festival. Some participants in other important events like the “Heroes Rally” were given color TVs, but not all of them were.

Events regarded as important in North Korea include mass parades, which requires three months of practice, and mass gymnastics and troop inspection ceremonies, which require over a year of practices.

There are no rewards for mass parade participants. Mass gymnastics participants, which are mostly students, are usually given a few kilograms of sweets. Soldiers and university students who participate in troop inspection ceremonies have been given a training suit, a uniform, combat boots, and some sweets or canned food as a reward for participation.

All of the participants in an event are awarded with medals. These medals are dubbed “bucket medals,” as they are trucked to the event venue and scooped out of buckets after a major event or construction.

North Korea has compensated contributors to major events with decorations or medals rather than with financial prizes. There are countless kinds of decorations and medals. Decades of service in the army without significant blunders earn 20 to 30 decorations and medals on average.