North Korea is one of the worst dictatorships in the world. A closed country, to which foreigners rarely gain entry. Every April 15th, the entire population is required to celebrate the birthday of deceased president Kim il Sung, founder of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. After his death, his son, Kim Jong il, came to power, but declared himself ’General’, and appointed his father ‘Eternal President’. Kim il Sung is therefore the only dead president still in power. The April 15th Celebrations, known as the ’Spring Festival’ is an excellent propaganda opportunity for the regime to showcase its cultural accomplishments and demonstrate its power. In a country where a third of the population don’t have enough to eat, the state spends obscene amounts of money organising these festivities, which have only one purpose: to celebrate the power and modernity of North Korea and the greatness of its two leaders, father and son.
It is also an opportunity for the most closed country in the world to open its doors just enough for us to peer in and admire its artists, performing in theatres which will spend the rest of the year empty. In this living museum of communism, the population wakes up every morning to the sound of loud speakers, singing the presidents’ praises. Here, the role of the arts is to educate the masses. The musicians are soldiers, and North Korea is a giant barrack.
‘Celebrations of Spring’ is a journey into the last bastion of Stalinism, offering rare insight into life in a strange and terrifying totalitarian ideology usually hidden from the outside world.
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