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NK to Hold Arirang Mass Games From Aug. 10

Posted August. 01, 2009 07:33,   


North Korea will hold the Arirang Mass Games, the world’s biggest mass performance.

The performance will begin at May Day Stadium in Pyongyang Aug. 10 amid international sanctions on the Stalinist country under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874.

A South Korean official said yesterday, “North Korea has mobilized kindergarteners, youths and middle-aged people to begin the Arirang Mass Games Aug. 10. Due to the North’s second nuclear test and missile launches, the number of foreigners visiting the North has decreased. Nevertheless, Pyongyang has proactively attempted to draw spectators to the performance through its embassies abroad and Web sites.”

The performance comprises mass games, card stunts, music and dance, and honors the communist regime. The event debuted in 2002 to mark the 90th birthday of the late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung. Since then, it has been held in 2005, 2007 and last year.

About one hundred thousand people are usually mobilized to participate in the performance. In September last year, the North’s official newspaper Rodong Shinmun (Labor Newspaper) praised the meticulously choreographed performance, saying, “The performance is the fruit of the enthusiasm of the country’s praiseworthy students.”

North Korean defectors whose relatives took part in the event tell a different story, however. They cite the huge human cost to students who must move in perfect harmony in the performance.

○ Dead and injured

A defector from Pyongyang said, “A student participating in the card stunt of the Arirang Mass Games suffered a ruptured appendix while training, but did not get medical treatment. The student eventually died.”

“The North Korean government simply awarded the student posthumously the Kim Il Sung Award for Honorable Youths. That’s all.”

While repeating the same routines, countless young students suffer muscle and ligament ruptures and fractures, the defectors said. Despite being injured, students must keep practicing.

Another defector said, “For mass gymnastics, several students push down a student’s torso to help get his or her legs wide apart. In the process, many suffer bone injuries.”

○ Urinary problems

Young students are frequently forced to get up at 4 a.m. and practice until 1 or 2 a.m. the following day. They get a slice of bread and candy for dinner. This poor diet causes anemia and malnutrition in many students.

One defector said, “While training for the Arirang performance, my cousin suffered from malnutrition but did not get medical treatment. After resting for several days, she was forced to resume training.”

Another said tens of students fall to the ground daily on scorching summer days.

Since the gist of the performance is mass gymnastics, North Korean trainers hardly allow students to drink water to prevent their urination. Accordingly, many students suffer from urinary problems and cystitis.

○ Vulnerable to beating

A defector whose son took part in the performance said, “My son participated in the Arirang Mass Games at age six. Six-year-old children are too young to repeat the same routines, but he was beaten and punished for failing to remember the motions.”

Anybody who makes mistakes in training is beaten, defectors said.

Since tens of thousands of students in the Arirang Mass Games are forced to practice for six to 12 months, they miss out on school. Accordingly, they have to take lessons on vacations or defer graduation.

Parents of children who participate in the performance complain over having to pay for the performance clothes and shoes for their children. In response, participants are given performance membership cards along with televisions or sewing machines.

A defector said, “I heard many South Koreans and foreign tourists visit North Korea to watch the performance. I cannot understand why they would want to. They have to know who the owner of the admission fee is and how he spends the money.”