It has emerged that the ‘April Spring Friendship Art Festival,’ an annual event held as part of celebrations for the April 15th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth, has not gone ahead ahead this year. An inside source has revealed that the cancellation relates to an unwillingness on the part of the authorities to allow in the hundreds of foreigners who would normally be required for such an event.
The source from Chongjin in North Hamkyung Province revealed news of the cancellation to Daily NK on the 15th, adding, “The only thing worth watching on TV was the foreign performers, so the absence of that has undermined the vacation feeling. People genuinely enjoyed watching the people from twenty-odd countries in other years, but this year they can’t so of course the atmosphere is flat.”
The inside source went on, “People feel that they have lost a once-in-a-year opportunity to see some foreign culture. Some people have pointed out that suggesting they are stopping the concerts due to the ‘tension’ is a bit farcical, since there isn’t any.” However, “It would have been tricky for the North Korean authorities to hold the festival after saying that even the safety of diplomats stationed in Pyongyang could not be guaranteed.”
In particular, “It would have been very difficult to send out invites months in advance when they were planning to heighten an atmosphere of war from the beginning of the year.”
Concerts for the April Friendship Art Festival are traditionally held in big cities including Pyongyang, Nampo and Hamheung. Last year, when North Korea marked Kim Il Sung’s 100th birthday, approximately 800 participants from 23 countries attended the nine-day festival.