Why Web Design Matters for North Korea

A revamped design breathes new life into one of the world’s online views of North Korea.

The flag of North Korea is portrayed in a photo of a “card stunt” during the Arirang Mass Games in a screen capture from http://www.korea-dpr.com.

This new one is not actually the official website of the DPRK—that’s naenara.com.kp, which exhibits credentials as the official portal of North Korea by its possession of the top-level domain “.kp” that was officially granted to North Korea in 2007 by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (although the use of the commercial domain signifier “.com” within the URL is curious, it has nothing to do with where the site is actually hosted). “Naenara” means, roughly, “my country.”

Korea-dpr.com, on the other hand, has the familiar “dot-com” ending to it and is hosted on a Spanish server, making it clear that it does not represent a direct connection to North Korea. In fact, the site is run by the Korean Friendship Association, which is headed up by a Spaniard but operated under the auspices of the DPRK’s Committee for Cultural Continue reading

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In the News – Thousands of North Koreans perform updated ‘Arirang’ show with odes to new leader Kim Jong Un

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In the News – Thousands of North Koreans perform updated ‘Arirang’ show with odes to new leader Kim Jong Un

PYONGYANG, North Korea — An updated version of North Korea’s elaborate “Arirang” performance has opened in Pyongyang.

Wednesday’s performance featured up to 100,000 North Koreans and debuted routines set to odes to new leader Kim Jong Un. It’s the first “Arirang” since Kim came to power after his father, Kim Jong Il, died in December.

The mass performance with dancing and gymnastics is named after a Korean folk song.

Performers this year included children tumbling across May Day Stadium and students who create a huge moving backdrop of images set to music.

Original Article

 

As One: more than a movie

 

With the 2012 London Olympics currently in progress, I thought I’d write about sports. Just in time for the international event, a movie was released this past May simply titled As One. It is based on the true story of Korea’s first unified sports team since the division, an event that brought patriotism and hope to the entire Korean Peninsula.

In February 1991, North and South Korean officials met at Panmunjum at the North-South border to make agreements on forming a unified soccer and table tennis team. Everything was decided on at this meeting. The flag was to be the unification flag, a blue Korean peninsula on a white background, and the anthem was to be the famous Korean folk song Arirang. And in April that same year, both the North and South Korean table tennis teams left for Japan to participate in the 1991 World Table Tennis Championships as the first ever unified Korean team since the division of the peninsula. History was in the making. Continue reading

In the News – ‘Arirang’ Looming over the Horizon

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In the News –  ‘Arirang’ Looming over the Horizon 

North Korea has begun forming troupes to take part in this year’s Arirang mass games performance, leading to a game of wait-and-see between parents determined to ensure that their children are not required to perform.

Training for Arirang, as well as the performance itself, places four or five months of severe physical and emotional stress on participants. Training for the games begins after May 20th, once the annual ‘farm supporting activities’ are completed, meaning that the time for concern is rapidly approaching.

A source from Pyongyang told Daily NK, “Each school began working on its own list of participants for the Arirang games after the Labor Day holiday. There was some hope that the mass games might not be held in the Kim Jong Eun era, but alas that was not to be. All the parents of school-aged children are now working on plans to get their children exempted from the games.”

“Well-off parents are secretly paying bribes to hospital staff for medical certificates which can get their children off. Genuinely infirm children are sent to recuperate in the country, which completely removes any chance of being selected for the games.” The source also said, “People are pretty brazen now when talking about having to pay expensive bribes and the like to get their children off these lists.”

The Arirang mass games are administrated by the Mass Gymnastics Organizing Committee, which is made up of members of the Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League and the cabinet-directed Chosun Sports Guidance Committee. From the beginning of May the committee screens children at Pyongyang’s elementary and middle schools based on height, health and artistic talent, and whittles the names down to a list of participants. In Pyongyang, roughly half the children from every school year are selected to take part in the games.

“Parents are keeping their eye on the situation and are keen to find out what other parents are doing to get their children out of selection,” the source said. “There is a palpable atmosphere amongst Pyongyang parents at the moment of trying to avoid selection for the games.”

The Arirang mass games have earned a nickname amongst the North Korean people: ‘Arirang of tears’. The games, which began in 2002, conscript over 10,000 elementary, middle school and university students from Pyongyang every year. Equipment including clothes, shoes, cards, artificial flowers, handheld flags, folding fans, and pole vaults become a burden for participants learning each routine.

As the performance approaches, students are made to train outside in stifling heat for 12 hours a day, from 8 o’clock in the morning, and practice is sometimes extended into the night. Parents of children who sit out from a rehearsal or fall behind in their training also become targets of severe criticism.

When the games began, performers were given televisions, which sparked envy amongst parents of non-participants; however, these have now been replaced with nylon blankets, leading to even less willing participation.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Children Brave Harsh Cold for Arirang

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In the News – Children Brave Harsh Cold for Arirang

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the North Korean authorities ordered the holding of provincial cultural events along similar lines to the famed ‘Arirang’ mass gymnastics. However, in Yangkang Province the weather in the run-up to the event meant that this created considerable displeasure, prompting some wealthier parents to make significant payments to avoid participation.

According to a source from Yangkang Province, a two-hour Arirang-style performance called ‘Shine, Shrine of the Revolution’ went ahead in Hyesan Stadium on the 15th, apparently causing the watching citizens of the city to agree that “We are in tears just watching those kids perform so well when they haven’t had enough to eat.”

Starting in February and continuing throughout the winter, preparations for the performance were intense, so a number of middle and upper class families apparently paid 60-100,000 North Korean Won to get their elementary- and middle school-age children out of it.

“The provincial education office issued an order telling schools to organize the performance for themselves, so the students in charge of preparing the card section had a really hard time making it,” the source explained. ”The intensity of the dance practice was too harsh as well; there were many kids with nosebleeds.”

“They said it was hell, spending all day in the icy cold practicing,” she went on. “Even in April it is about 10℃ in Yangkang Province, cold enough to be wearing padded clothes at midday. The students had to bring lunch, and those who did not practiced the whole day starving”.

“Does ‘Arirang’ know that these children are starving and suffering like this?” Hyesan residents could reportedly be heard to wonder, referring euphemistically to Kim Jong Eun.

Provincial performances of this nature were first initiated when Kim Jong Il attended a mass gymnastics event in Jagang Province in August, 2009, declaring that regional variations on a theme be prepared nationwide. These events are ordinarily held from Liberation Day on August 15th to Party Foundation Day on October 10th, but this year saw special performances organized to mark the April 15th holiday, requiring preparations to go ahead during the winter.

However, on April 15th Rodong Shinmun released news of the Yangkang Province performance, saying that it had rendered the stadium “aflutter with joy.”

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – N. Korea to kick off Arirang Festival in April

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In the News – N. Korea to kick off Arirang Festival in April

SEOUL, Feb. 12 (Yonhap) — North Korea will start its massive dance and gymnastics extravaganza in April to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the nation’s founder and new leader Kim Jong-un’s grandfather, a U.S.-based travel agency said Sunday.

According to New Tours Korea, the U.S.-based travel agency that specializes in guided tours to North Korea, the Arirang Mass Game will be held from April 10 to May 1 and from August 1 until Sept. 15.  Continue reading