Arirang Performance Violates UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

[imText1] “The Arirang performance seriously violates the human rights of tens and thousands of kindergarten and elementary school students who are forced to participate in gymnastics and card routines.”

Human rights experts analyze that the North Korean Arirang performance is an infringement act against the UN Convention on the rights of a child.

In 2005, tens and thousands of children were forced to practice for 6 months in preparation for the mass gymnastics “Arirang Performance.”

In a telephone conversation with the DailyNK, Professor Lee Yang Hee of Sungkyungkwan University and Member of the Korean Committee UNICEF said on the 24th, “The rigorous training experienced by children for the North Korean Arirang performance is a serious infringement on the UN Convention on the rights of the child” and explained the difficultly in conducting investigations on North Korea, “North Korea is so isolated to the point that the UN nor the international community cannot intervene in any way.”

Professor Lee said, “In particular, children who participate in the Arirang performance miss out on school, an encroachment on their study” and urged, “Although North Korea has joined the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it has not executed any of the statues of the convention.”

She added, “We must investigate under what conditions these children are being lodged while training for the Arirang performance and see what effect it has on their growth and development” and stressed, “However, North Korea rejects any advice from the international community.”

“Following the Arirang performance in 2005, the South Korean press depicted disappointment at the event as if it were a presentation showcased by one of our own schools” Professor Lee said and emphasized, “The press must find out and report exactly how children are being treated during the training for Arirang performances.”

“Repeating the same routine thousands of times can cause negative affects on normal growth.”

Director Huh Man Ho of the Asia Center for Human Rights said, “It makes no sense in forcing tens and thousands of children to participate in the Arirang performance” and pointed out, “It is clearly a violation of the UN Convention on the rights of the child.”

Director Ho said, “Forcing children to perform the same repetitive steps thousands, tens and thousands of times will not aid their growth and falls under the category of excessive training” and criticized, “From a national perspective, these acts are no different to the exploitation of child labor and human rights.”

He said, “The infringement of human rights on tens and thousands of children for the a performance for Kim Il Song’s birthday is not acceptable” and urged, “The Korean government and the international community must be proactive and stop North Korea getting away with issues such as these.”

Vice Chairperson for the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Hei Soo Shin said, “As a committee member on human rights, it is not appropriate for me to publicly comment on North Korea,” yet added, “There are human rights issues pertaining to North Korea’s different social classes. Children’s Rights is also very serious.”

Ms. Shin said, “The problem lies with the North Korean regime and hence no problem is on its own” and stressed, “Human rights issues exist amongst children and women as well as the average person.”

On the other hand, the “Sarangbang” Group for human rights explained that the Arirang performance was not considered a problem to the North Korean regime and hence should not be measured against South Korean standards.

Park Seok Jin, representative of the Sarangbang said, “There is a controversial factor in claiming that the Arirang performance violates children’s human rights… Though there is some degree of difference, the underlying issues regarding South Korea’s athletic events of the past and the Arirang performance are similar.”

Mr. Park said, “We cannot know the exact minds of the children and their resistance in being forced to take part” and that, “There are some European countries with circus acts where children must undergo a high level of training. Hence, we cannot simply accuse the Arirang performance to be bad.”

He said, “Mass gymnastics is a form of systematic propaganda in North Korea that is accepted as normal and natural” and added, “It is wrong to claim that these children are being used as propaganda to such a natural event.”

After the Arirang performance in Oct 2005 which celebrated the 60th anniversary of North Korea’s Workers’ Party, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea made a declaration arguing that the event had violated the rights of children. However, following discussions and a vote, a decision was made to leave the matter alone.