Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fascinating to watch

Because my book is set in ancient Korea, it roams across the entire peninsula, from the very tip of South Korea and up and beyond modern day North Korea into what is now considered China, was once called Manchuria, and was in ancient times part of the Korean kingdom of Koguryo. The political dispute between China and the two Koreas over the ancient treasures and historic sites of Koguryo have resulted in vicious academic and journalistic backbiting over whether or not Koguryo is considered Chinese or Korean. Historically, Koguryo has always been recognized as one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. But I don't want to get into the middle of this contentious political disagreement.

But I bring this up because the kingdom of Koguryo, which I refer to as Guru, is a major part of my book. And that leads me to my interest in North Korea. While I abhore the North Korean government and the "military first" ideology that harms its citizens, I am interested in the culture and the people who must suffer under such a harsh one-party regime. So I found this fascinating video highlighting preparations for the 2003 Pyongyang Mass Games, the world's largest choreographed gymnastics performance. These are clips from A State of Mind, which is a 2004 documentary film by Daniel Gordon which follows two North Korean child gymnasts and their families for over eight months during training for the mass games. The UK-based Dance band Faithless used clips from the documentary for this video to their single "I Want More." I hope you find it as fascinating as I did.

12 comments:

JaneyV said...

It amazes me the way these vast choreographed events are achieved. I can't help but feel that the discipline required to be part of these doesn't sit right on such young faces. I find myself wondering if the reality of their childhood bears any resemblance to my kids' experience.

It is fascinating though.

Melissa Marsh said...

No room for error, that's for sure. I think my favorite part, though, was when the guy had turned his card to red when it was supposed to be blue.

Larramie said...

Fascinating, beautiful and yet a bit chilling.

pacatrue said...

The juxtaposition is always the most fascinating. Quick shots of an individual woman/girl acting a little bored with her ball, followed my mass synchronization. I also couldn't help but imagine all the time and energy spent on this with the recurring famine in the countryside.

Aine said...

Wow-- beautiful! But I am amazed, like Janey, with how anyone can possibly coordinate such a large scale show.

It is awesome what a large group of humans can achieve with a common goal. But I also wonder how much individual freedom and growth was sacrificed in the process.

Conduit said...

The difference in attitude to society, and one's place in it, is one of the things that most fascinates me about Asian cultures. This kind of mass participation in a seemingly pointless event in one thing, or the Chaebol business model in South Korea, or the Japanese approach to education where children's hours are dedicated to learning in a way that doesn't happen in the West.

Some of the most interesting world cinema has being coming from Asia in recent years, too.

spyscribbler said...

Ello, I feel so inspired by the dedication to individual excellence in order to support a common goal for the greater good.

It is so diametrically different from our culture, which often tends to view kids' activities as if it's not something they will be the best at, something they will do for the rest of their lives, then it's not worth it.

I think pursuing excellence for the sake of excellence is worthy, and that excellence will transfer to everything else you do.

And while I fully support the development of a child's individuality, I do feel American culture has gotten too self-centered and a bit greedy. Whatever happened to the common good? Why is that such a bad thing?

There's a line and a balance, of course.

March to the Sea said...

that is what I like about netflix..i can just add stuff like this.

thanks for the heads up.

Kim Kasch said...

OMG and I can't even get a good family photo where the five of us are smiling - with our eyes open - what does that say about us?

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

Yowzer, fascinating and remarkable indeed - but also a little scary, like these kids of been programmed like automatons. You have to wonder what it took to achieve that.

ChrisEldin said...

This was really neat to watch. Thanks for sharing!!

Mary Witzl said...

I can't make this video work right now (and plus I'm at work, sneaking a few minutes), but I can imagine how perfectly choreographed it must be.

I had a friend who was in high school during the Korean War. She and all her classmates had to hold their arms high over their heads and wave pom-poms when a group of dignitaries paraded past them one morning; they were there for five hours, waiting. I'd have cracked after 30 minutes.