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World - Asia/Pacific

N. Korea tries mass spectacles to catch visitors' attention

Thousands of people gathered in a North Korean stadium to call for the reunification of the Korea Peninsula

CNN's Mike Chinoy takes a rare look at life in North Korea
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CNN's Mike Chinoy reports from Pyongyang on the latest diplomatic moves
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North Korea demonstrates openness to wary neighbors


August 13, 1999
Web posted at: 8:12 p.m. EDT (0012 GMT)

From Hong Kong Bureau Chief Mike Chinoy

PYONGYANG, North Korea (CNN) -- Tens of thousands of people filled a stadium in North Korea's capital on Friday, calling for reunification of the Korea Peninsula.

A crowd of more than 100,000 danced, chanted slogans and sang songs for national unification, reported the North's international news outlet, the Korean Central News Agency.

Participants also watched a second soccer match between North Korean and South Korean workers. The two teams played to a 4-4 draw.

South Korea called Friday's rally an orchestrated spectacle by the reclusive Stalinist government to spread propaganda against South Korea and the United States.

For those few international observers and journalists who have been allowed to visit North Korea, the rally was typical fare.

CNN Hong Kong Bureau Chief Mike Chinoy, in his latest visit to the Communist North, said he and other CNN representatives had been treated to a full schedule off mass rallies and sports events, interspersed with unsolicited meetings with people who could reinforce Pyongyang's current political theme.

For example: A group of women who say they were forced to serve as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers in World War II, echoing a demand for Japanese war reparations.

Or a gathering of international leftists, supporting Pyongyang's call for South Korea to tear down a wall along the Korean demilitarized zone.

"So much of what a visitor does see here is so choreographed that many things remain unclear," Chinoy said. "Even on this, my eleventh visit, understanding North Korea remains a daunting challenge."

Chinoy said his CNN crew had been allowed to talk with North Korean officials about headline issues, including North Korea's continuing famine, or the North's missile program.

But the officials have been much more interested in showcasing their mass extravaganzas, Chinoy said, such as the reunification rally and soccer match -- elaborate theatrics that send a signal that North Korea remains a power to be reckoned with.

North Korea demonstrates openness to wary neighbors
August 13, 1999
Two Koreas meet on soccer field as engagement grows
August 12, 1999
North Korea brings Japan war atrocities into diplomatic row
August 11, 1999

Korean Central News Agency
North Korea: Information
Korea Government Homepage
North Korea Report
North Korea: Politics & Government
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