SEOUL (Reuters Life!) - Thousands gathered in Pyongyang for the opening of the "Arirang" mass games, an annual spectacle celebrating North Korea's leaders and history, even as their nation suffers from chronic food shortages and asks other nations for aid.
Nearly two million died from hunger in the 1990s, and shortages loom again following a severe winter and flooding this year. A U.N. report said in March that more than 6 million people are in urgent need of outside assistance.
But none of this showed Monday night's opening performance, which took place on the 63rd anniversary of North Korea's founding with hundreds of thousands of people taking part in carefully choreographed dances and gymnastics displays, official news agency KCNA said.
"As the melody of the song 'His Ideal' resounded forth, such slogans as 'Highest Tribute to the Great Leader, Father of Nation' and 'Highest Glory to the Great Leader, Comrade Kim Jong-il' appeared in the background one after the other," KCNA added.
The Arirang performances began in 2002 and have continued annually since then, with the exception of 2006, when they were canceled due to severe flooding. They will continue for more than a month.
Reporting by Tae-Yi Kim, editing by Elaine Lies