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N. Korea to resume 'Arirang' mass gymnastic performance

All Headlines 21:45 September 23, 2007

SEOUL, Sept. 23 (Yonhap) -- North Korea will resume its annual large-scale artistic performance that was suspended last month due to damages from heavy rain, the country's official media reported Sunday.

"The Arirang Festival will continue ... amid strong interest at home and abroad," the North's Korea Central Television Station reported.

The first part of this year's show was held between mid-May and May 20, and ran every day except Sundays for about 80 minutes starting at 8 p.m. The second part, which was to run from Aug. 1 to mid-October, was suspended last last month due to flood recovery efforts by many North Koreans.

In the show, some 100,000 people perform synchronized acrobatics on the field while various images are displayed in the stands. From outside North Korea, the festival is largely considered a propaganda show.

Pyongyang is eager to show off the country's unity and its tight control over its 23 million people to the outside world amid chronic economic hardships and the standoff over its nuclear weapons program.

The resumption was at least partially expected, as South Korean officials announced earlier this week that they are pushing for the leaders of the two Koreas, Roh Moo-hyun and Kim Jong-il, to sit side-by-side to watch the performance on Aug. 2, during South Korean President Roh's scheduled visit to the North early next month.

Devastating floods are believed to have destroyed 11 percent of the North's farmland, and the number of dead and missing is estimated to be more than 300, with the homeless numbering about 300,000. An estimated 46,580 homes of 88,400 families were destroyed or damaged, according to the North's media.

This year's performance carries special significance for North Korea, as it celebrates the 95th anniversary of the birth of its founding leader, Kim Il-sung, who died of heart failure in 1994. This year also marks the 62nd anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japan's colonial rule and the founding of the North's ruling Workers' Party.


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