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Friday, September 02, 2005

A Rare Peak inside a Closed Society
British filmmaker Daniel Gordon's documentary follows two girls, 13-year-old Pak Hyon Sun and 11-year-old Kim Song Yun, as they train for the Mass Games, huge choreographed celebrations held periodically to commemorate significant anniversaries in North Korea's history.

"Even if you studiously follow world news, you're unlikely to have seen this much of the day-to-day lives of North Koreans, which are riddled with contradictions. The girls' families, one from the intellectual class, the other working class, live in Pyongyang, where all are equal under the Communist system. The state-provided apartments, though small and spartan, appear to be comfortable. However, we are told that the capital city is considered the nation's showcase and people are reminded how lucky they are to live there, implying conditions in other areas are not as good.

Even in Pyongyang, food is rationed. One family celebrates a child's birthday by giving her a full bowl of rice while her siblings get half. State-run radio is piped into every kitchen (though the volume can be turned down), and the country's one television station (if you are fortunate enough to have received one) airs propaganda, movies and entertainment for five hours each day."

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