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N. Korea Cancels Mass Games Because of Floods

July 30, 2006|From the Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea has canceled a massive propaganda event because of floods that devastated the country this month, a North Korean diplomat said Saturday.

The event known as the "mass games" features thousands of synchronized gymnasts and performers in a stadium where the stands are turned into a giant animated mosaic by children flipping pages of multicolored books.

Han Song Ryol, deputy chief of North Korea's mission to the United Nations in New York, said the event, which had been set for next month, "has been canceled due to flood damages."

Heavy mid-July rains killed at least 154 North Koreans and left at least 127 missing, the U.N. said last week. North Korea's official media has said the disaster caused "hundreds" of casualties and that roads, bridges, railroads and communications had been cut off.

The flooding has raised concern about the food supply of the impoverished nation, which is unable to sustain its population without outside help.

The event, which takes place almost every year, pays tribute to North Korea's founding ruler, Kim Il Sung, in an attempt to bolster domestic support for the regime led by his son, Kim Jong Il.

Citizens are transported from across the country to see it, and foreigners have been allowed in for rare visits. The event had been scheduled to run for two months starting in mid-August.

Then-U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited a mass game in Pyongyang in 2000, where a mosaic displayed an animated missile flying into the sky.

"This will be our last missile," Kim Jong Il reportedly told Albright.

The North this month test-fired seven missiles -- including a new model believed capable of reaching Guam or the western tip of the Aleutian Islands that failed shortly after takeoff -- in violation of a self-imposed moratorium on long-range launches.

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