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The communist state of North Korea has exercised authoritarian control over its citizenry at the expense of individual rights and freedoms; conformity and discipline ...
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Organization, discipline, and collectivism are important values in North Korean society. "One for All, All for One," is a popular slogan used by the ruling Party. The Mass Games, a collective art form created by thousands of participants, serves as a prime example of this teamwork mentality. In this clip, Pak Hyon Sun gives us a brief portrait of life in the capital city of North Korea, Pyongyang.
In 1945, following World War II, a line was drawn on the 39th parallel dividing Korea into two states: North Korea and South Korea. North Korea was headed by Kim Il Sung and the communist Korean Workers' Party. The structure of North Korean government has persisted unchanged since the death of Kim Il Sung in 1994 and the transference of power to his son, Kim Jong Il. The North Korean government is often referred to as a totalitarian dictatorship due to its single-party rule and the control exercised by the state over many aspects of life in the country.
The Korean War, that lasted from 1950-1953, was one of several attempts during the last half century to reunify Korea under either Southern or Northern leadership. During this conflict, which in North Korea is referred to as the "Fatherland Liberation War," North Korea was unsuccessful in its bid to take over the southern part of the peninsula by force. The war ended up involving many different nations, and killed an estimated 4 million Koreans, nearly 1 million Chinese, 33,700 U.S. troops, and few thousand international UN troops.
In recent decades, North Korea has suffered great economic hardship. The country's industry has fallen into ruin following the withering of trade arrangements with the USSR and China. Agricultural prospects are poor and the country relies heavily on foreign food aid. Several recent periods of severe deprivation and famine in the country have left the North Korean people in a struggle for daily survival. In 1995, horrible floods created conditions so bad that it is estimated that close to 3 million people died. In addition, international concern about North Korea's military efforts deepened considerably in the first decade of the 21st century following its withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its announcement in 2006 of its first successful nuclear test.
While North Korea outwardly struggles with isolation, famine, and economic collapse, the state expends considerable energy to produce ideological unity and pride among its population. The film "A State of Mind" follows two young North Korean gymnasts as they prepare for the Mass Games, a massive state-sponsored event glorifying North Korea's leaders. This display of pageantry and governmental control involves tens of thousands of participants manipulating large colored cards and performing perfectly synchronized gymnastics routines. It is considered a great honor to participate in the Mass Games, and requires year-round practice.
- How does the group organization described by Pak Hyon Sun's grandfather promote responsibility and commitment?
- The narrator suggests the regime utilizes established cultural values. What values are those, and how are they utilized by the regime?
- Hypothesize...what criteria might be employed by the Party in allocating residency in Pyongyang?
- What features of state radio bring to mind the term 'Orwellian'?
Wide Angle: "A State of Mind"
Learn more about the Wide Angle film "A State of Mind"
Produced by Thirteen.
Produced by Thirteen.