PYONGYANG — North Korea’s lavish Arirang Festival, in which 120,000 gymnasts and acrobats convene to perform synchronized dances on a massive scale, kicked off on Monday and is set to continue — on a grueling schedule of five shows per week — until September. Traditionally a commemoration of the armistice between North and South Korea (“Victory Day”), North Korea’s state news agency has revealed that the festival will also celebrate the nation’s gold-medal sweep at the 2013 Summer Olympics.
“North Korea’s unqualified triumph at the 2013 Summer Olympics is simply the latest in a succession of similar victories, such as those at the 2012 Summer Olympics, the 2011 Summer Olympics, the 2010 Summer Olympics, the 2009 Summer Olympics, and so forth,” reported Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea.
“Whereas the slothful, imperialist Western media will concede our victories in only the lamest sports, like weightlifting, this celebration will reassure patriots that we remain dominant in events as cool and relevant as ‘jumping really high at the same time as a bunch of other people are jumping really high’ and ‘marching around in a vaguely threatening way.’”
Despite significant economic hardship and a primarily rural population, North Korea has remained able to recruit astonishing numbers of people to perform in the May Day stadium in Pyongyang.
“I left my parents to toil alone on their farm for six months so I could perform in the Arirang Festival,” said Hwang Min-jae, an acrobat from North Korea’s struggling Ryanggang province. “I trained for ten hours a day with no breaks. My role is to enter the arena at the thirtieth minute, do a cartwheel, and then leave. I only hope that my cartwheel honors General Kim Jong-un, and my dead parents, and our noble Olympic gold medalists in BMX and dressage.”
The backdrop for the festival is provided diorama-style, as approximately fifty thousand teenagers will hold up massive sheets of paper to form a composite image when seen from afar. Moving seamlessly with one another, the teenagers will use different sheets to express different scenes and moods.
“My son is very rebellious,” said Park Sung-soo, father of one of the teenagers involved in the festival’s backdrop. “He was assigned to position 130-44, but requested to swap with the person in position 158-95. How impetuous! Well, kids will be kids.”
In addition to strengthening security at the perimeter of the Demilitarized Zone, South Korea took the opportunity to scoff at what passes for entertainment in their northern neighbor.
Prime Minister Jung Hung-won summarized South Korea’s disdain succinctly: “If it doesn’t involve playing video games for one hundred hours straight and then dying, it’s not entertainment.”