N. Korea updates mass performance to fete new leader
By Kim Young-jin
North Korea has opened an updated version of its mass “Arirang” gymnastics show in Pyongyang, to fete its new leader Kim Jong-un, its state media said Thursday.
The "grand gymnastic and artistic performance Arirang raised its first curtain at the May Day Stadium," the North's Korean Central News Agency said in a press release.
The opening came amid reports that this year’s shows could be the last after a ten-year run that began to mark the 90th anniversary of country founder Kim Il-sung’s birth.
It features tens of thousands of young gymnasts moving in synchronicity to create "music, dances, gymnastics, acrobatics and ever-changing background", and is marked by its unique usage of placards to create words and images. The festival runs through Sept. 9.
The performance includes slogans such as "Long live heaven-sent illustrious commander General Kim Jong-un!” the release said. Music associated with Kim, who took power following his father’s death last year, has also been included.
Tour agencies that arrange trips to the reclusive country have said this year’s run could be the last, citing their North Korean partners, who said a new performance was not in the works.
The displays are rife with political messages upholding the North’s military-first ideology.
Pyongyang appears to be paying greater attention to culture as it bids to win the support of its people under Kim, thought to be in his late twenties. Kim and his wife were prominently featured recently taking in a concert by a new band that performed covers of Western songs.
The country, struggling with a battered economy, has reportedly seen a jump in the amount of outside information flowing through its porous border with China, allowing U.S. and South Korean media to reach its citizens.