For the first time in years, American visitors are being permitted to attend the uber-nationalistic Arirang Festival in North Korea. The "Mass Games" event retells the tale of NoKo history. Boing Boing has a few pals there, and we look forward to their first-hand reports. Blogger Dan Schorr went, and posts an account:
This flight attendant wore a pin with the face of Kim Il-sung, the "Great Leader" of North Korea (officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea). Dying in 1994 has not prevented him from guiding the nation – he has been declared the nation's "eternal President" and almost everyone we interacted with who was in any any sort of official capacity (and we were hardly ever able to see other people up close) wore such a pin. Those that didn't had a different pin – one showing the face of Kim Il-sung's son Kim Jong-il, the country's "Dear Leader" who currently has the reigns of power and is often referred to as "the General".
(…) The [Arirang festival] performance runs this year for about two months – we were told that 100,000 performers took part in opening night, with a lower number of people after that. It lasted about ninety minutes. "Arirang" was also the theme of the 2002 Mass Games and we were told that performers practiced for a year – this time they took six months to rehearse for the performance.
After this incredibly impressive display, I learned first-hand that the North Koreans didn't want us to freely take photos. When I pointed my camera at the large picture of Kim Il-sung that hung over the stadium, a woman in uniform swatted my camera down, resulting in a blurry shot of the chairs. I noted the stern, disapproving stares from at least a couple of them and I hoped they weren't about to take my camera – fortunately they didn't.
(…) We got back to the hotel around 10pm and were told we were allowed to walk within 100 meters of the front door but no further. I had never experienced such a situation in my life – a very weird feeling to be told that you are locked down at home for the night like a child. But I knew this was part of the deal in traveling to North Korea.