UN Should Inspect the Arirang, a Modern Slave Performance

[imText1]The curtain for the mass performance “Arirang” rose at Pyongyang 5.1 Stadium on April 15 with numerous foreign media and visitors in attendance. A BBC journalist said “at one point, 1,000 women in white coalesced into a perfect map of the country. No detail was spared in the purposefully spectacular display.”

The Arirang is a truly tremendous and unusual performance that can only be witnessed in North Korea. The scale and delicacy of the performance is exceptional and includes thousands of people singing songs and dancing simultaneously. In the stadium background, tens of thousands of students become pixels in forming fantastic moving pictures as precise as any electronic signage.

Some people erroneously claim that these performances are merely North Korean cultural events similar to those in South Korea celebrating popular sports and that the intensity and terms of the training are comparable. This view is also held by Kim Jong Il and authoritarian members of the North Korean government.

The reality of Arirang is different however, according to vivid testimony of the parents whose children participate in the performance. Their children’s eyes are tense after robust mechanical drilling by their director.

The training period for the Arirang is over 6 months. Particularly delicate dancing or movement may require training for a year or more during which students give up studying and their private lives. The performances last from two to four months. As in the army, every participant belongs to a company, battalion and regiment and participates in regular meetings for evaluation and peer criticism.

They train in both dazzling sunshine and snowstorms. Thousands of preschoolers perform choreographed rope-jumping stunts, hand-standing, and hand-walking while singing, “The way for victory with the great general” in unison. They practice a single movement thousands of times.

Five and six year old children emulate military parade walking techniques that require exhausting straight leg kicks to a 60 cm height, toes straight, followed by a floor kick. A day’s training in this technique leaves the children weak and dizzy.

The Arirang is a modern slavery performance used to raise foreign currency and produce propaganda. Participation is mandatory and generally without reward, though in 2005, some participants received sewing machines as “gifts from the General.”

Arirang authorities claim this event is a concentrated expression of North Korean will. It is clear however that this expression of national will could only occur in an absolute dictatorship determined to use its people as conscripted pixels.

North Korea is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which states that “Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.”

The performance of Arirang is an obvious violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child the United Nations should begin an investigation. No parent should support the Arirang performance due to its use of large scale, forced labor, a condition commonly called slavery.