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Mass Games Using Panda to Reinforce China Ties

Posted August. 05, 2010 11:22,   


North Korea is using the panda in its Mass Games, which began Monday in Pyongyang, to symbolize its ties with China.

Content indirectly praising North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s third son and heir apparent Jong Un has also been included in the event.

The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, said Monday that a performance stressing bilateral relations was added to this year’s first show under the name “Friendship Arirang” at May Day Stadium in Pyongyang.

In front of about 30,000 spectators, performers formed human letters to spell out the phrases, “The (North Korea-China) friendship will last forever like the water of the Aprok (Yalu) River,” and, “Our relations originated long ago and will last for a very long time.”

The Jiefang Daily, the newspaper of the party’s Shanghai chapter, said the performers dressed themselves as pandas or beat drums while wearing traditional Chinese clothing.

The People’s Daily said, “(North) Korea revises part of the show’s content every year by reflecting changes in the situation,” adding, “It seems to have included this content to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War and China’s dispatch of troops to fight U.S. forces.”

Jiefang added, “Certain analysts say the North took the action as a gesture of gratitude to China for not approving the results of the probe into the sinking of the (South Korean) naval ship Cheonan.”

The Associated Press said the performance’s content in general has a hint of efforts for internal consolidation in response to U.S. financial sanctions.

Friendship Arirang also included the slogan “CNC,” standing for “computer numerical control.” According the Unification Ministry in Seoul, the show’s conclusion featured a card section reading, “Power of the independent industry of CNC.”

Since the second half of 2008, the North has emphasized CNC through intra-city bulletin boards and postage stamps. This was the first time, however, that the slogan appeared in the Arirang performance.

North Korean authorities are thus promoting the achievements of Kim Jong Un, who values science and technology.

Analysts say the emergence of CNC in Arirang, which has a combined 100,000 performers, might be intended to allude to Kim Jong Il’s plan to transfer power to his son.

Lee Jong-joo, vice spokesman of the South Korean Unification Ministry, said, “North Korea has emphasized that CNC is a new achievement through independent science and technology,” adding, “Some analysts say CNC is related to the power transition plan in North Korea.”

Arirang will be performed four times weekly through mid-October. A VIP seat costs 300 euros (396 U.S dollars) and a regular seat goes for 80-150 euros (105 to 198 dollars). To attract more viewers from China, Pyongyang will temporarily operate Air Koryo flights between Pyongyang and Shanghai twice a week between Friday and October 5.

The Oriental Morning Post of Shanghai also quoted a China International Travel Service source in the Chinese border city of Dandong, Liaoning Province, as saying that per Pyongyang’s request, the Arirang show is being promoted as a must-see event for Chinese tourists.

bonhong@donga.com zeitung@donga.com