Infiltrating North Korea Part 14: Pyongyang Sock Hop


Infiltrating North Korea is a two-week series exploring the world’s most reclusive nation and its bizarre, anachronistic way of life. To start reading at the beginning of the series, be sure to click here.

Yesterday’s video captured the playful, innocent spirit of North Korean kids as they flew kites and ran amuck through Kim Il Sung Square in celebration of the Korean Workers’ Party Foundation Day.

Today, we take you to another celebration for the same holiday. This one, however, fast forwards to the slightly older age of high school students and their version of a celebratory get-together that is far more organized in scope and thus, far more indicative of the tightly structured North Korean lifestyle we had witnessed throughout our stay in the capital.

Although just a few years older than the kids we saw kite flying in the same square, playtime seems to have evolved at the high school level to a choreographed effort where everyone had a role in a much larger production.

Sure, perhaps I’m projecting too much of the North Korean regime onto a simple outdoor dance festival, but it’s difficult to imagine otherwise; the state simply controls and regulates every aspect of life, even down to the moves at a high school dance.

Totalitarian sock hop or otherwise, the production was nonetheless a joy to watch from high atop the Grand Study House where we had just wrapped up a tour. The dance wasn’t on the itinerary but we were able stop for a few moments and take it all in.

The video also includes close-ups of a large Kim Il Sung mosaic, the Yanggakdo Hotel where we stayed, as well as the 170-meter Tower of the Juche Idea that was constructed with 25,550 stones, each representing a day in the life of Kim Il Sung up to the age of 70 when the tower was unveiled on his birthday.

Yesterday: Kids will be Kids
Tomorrow: More Song, Dance, and a Little Conundrum about Chocolate