Monday in the Park with Kim

Ladies and Gentlemen, we think we have a winner for the 2010 Walter Duranty award:  the Associated Press for this story:

The party in Pyongyang stretched into Monday as North Koreans took the day off to celebrate a major political anniversary and to revel in the unveiling of leader Kim Jong Il’s heir-apparent, son Kim Jong Un.

Families packed baskets with food and liquor they received from the government in honor of the occasion and picnicked along the Taedong River and on scenic Moran Hill. Others headed to an amusement park, filling the air with screams as they braved a serpentine rollercoaster and rammed one another in bumper cars.

The scenes of revelry in North Korea’s showcase capital contradicted the austerity and shortages normally associated with this reclusive country of 24 million, and this was no ordinary weekend…

North Korea, with few natural resources and arable land, has struggled to feed its people since natural disasters battered its agricultural industry in the 1990s and aid from the former Soviet bloc dried up.

Natural disasters and lack of aid, eh?  The despotic and maniac policies of North Korea’s communist leaders had nothing to do with it?

As on most major holidays, every North Korean got a special gift from the government. Pak said he and his family took the beer, Korean soju liquor, meat, fish and snacks in their bundles to Moran Hill for a picnic — a popular holiday tradition.

Families were also gathering under the willow trees along Taedong River, where they had a view of some of Pyongyang’s grandest monuments, including Juche Tower, the palatial People’s Study Hall and the massive bronze statue of Kim Il Sung that overlooks the city…

Three generations of one family feasted on beef stew, dumplings, tempura, blood sausage and kimchi, the spicy fermented cabbage that is Korea’s most famous condiment. Further down the riverbank, a group of friends sang and clapped as one woman gave an impromptu dance performance before collapsing into giggles.

Down by the riverside, fathers were teaching their sons how to shoot at a miniature shooting range, while others clustered around a rattling foosball table. Others jumped into paddleboats that dotted the waterfront.

Jo Hyang Mi, eyes bright and cheeks flushed, took a break from a heated game of badminton to roll up her pant legs. Jo said she, too, watched Sunday’s military parade on TV.

“I was so happy to see Kim Jong Un after he was elected vice-chairman of the military commission” of the Workers’ Party’s Central Committee, she said. “I feel happy and full of conviction knowing that our country is powerful and that our strength comes from the leadership of our Great Leader Kim Jong Il and from Kim Jong Un.”…

Smart woman!  Some secret policeman may be reading this story.

As the sun set, the lights went on at the Triumph Children’s Park, an amusement park just a stone’s throw from the Arch of Triumph where Kim Il Sung made a historic speech just days after founding the Workers’ Party in 1945.

The park pulsated with neon, and tree branches laced with small lights gave the fair a festive air. Groups of friends posed for photos, and families crowded into fast food joints selling fried chicken, burgers, Belgian waffles and soft-serve ice cream cones.

Children raced around from ride to ride, lining up for bumper cars, a rollercoaster, a levitating pirate’s ship and other fun fair standards.

One little boy begged his mother to let him on just one more ride — a familiar plea all the world over.

Today everyone goes back to their daily meal of stone soup.  Shostakovich said about the finale of his Fifth Symphony, ““The rejoicing is forced, created under threat…It’s as if someone were beating you with a stick and saying ‘Your business is rejoicing.’ And you rise, shaky, and go marching off, muttering, ‘Our business is rejoicing, our business is rejoicing.’”  No one could blame the people of North Korea for enjoying the tiniest respite from the oppression and starvation that is their ordinary lot.  But why couldn’t the AP have added that perspective?

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