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(LEAD) Moon to attend N. Korea's propaganda mass games

All Headlines 16:15 September 19, 2018

(ATTN: ADDS more info in 5th para)

SEOUL, Sept. 19 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in will attend a controversial mass gymnastics performance in Pyongyang late Wednesday on the second day of his trip, a presidential official said.

North Korea unveiled the propaganda performance titled the "Glorious Country" on Sept. 9 to commemorate its 70th founding anniversary.

Known as an upgraded version of the Arirang mass games, last held in 2013, the show involves tens of thousands of performers staging a spectacular display of acrobatics, gymnastics, dances and flip-card mosaic animations.

"There could be content that welcomes our president (in the performance) and the title could be changed," said Yoon Young-chan, the senior secretary to President Moon for public relations during a press briefing in Seoul.

He later added Moon will deliver a speech to some 150,000 people expected to gather in the May Day Stadium where the performance will be staged. The speech will be broadcast live in Seoul.

The event is mostly aimed at extolling the North's leaders and the socialist system so it is regarded as a major propaganda tool. It has caused controversy over violations of human rights as a large number of children are usually mobilized for intensive training.

This photo captured from North Korea's state-controlled TV shows the Glorious Country mass gymnastics and artistic performance staged on the North's 70th founding anniversary. (Yonhap) (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution)

In 2007, then-South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun faced criticism from conservatives at home after he attended the Arirang performance during his trip to Pyongyang for a summit with then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Roh watched the event, along with Kim Yong-nam, the North's nominal head of state.

Apparently in consideration of such concerns, Yoon said that the North has made efforts to "reflect our stance." He did not confirm whether leader Kim will join the event.

Media reports showed that the performance unveiled on the North's founding anniversary appears to be short on anti-U.S. slogans, which used to be a mainstay of the previous mass games. Instead, it occasionally signaled leader Kim's stepped-up efforts on diplomacy.

The latest performance drew attention as it used drones, lasers and other colorful and state-of-the art techniques, which experts say might demonstrate the North's strong commitment to science, technology and economic development.

In particular, a large screen composed of car sections showed images related to the April 27 summit talks between Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The performance is likely to run until Oct. 10, the anniversary of establishment of the North's ruling party.


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