Abstract

In this article, I am concerned with the religious nature of North Korean statehood and the religiosity of the people, as exemplified by North Korea’s hallmark mass gymnastics show, the Arirang Festival. As a ritual occasion of the highest import in Jucheism, the Festival displays the topography of statehood and shapes the mind-heart of the people through the extraordinary bodily discipline of the supposed disciples of Jucheism. By relying on video footage as well as film and other narratives about the mass gymnastics show, this article analyzes the relational structure and normative affects involving the Father (Kim Il Sung) and his faithful embodied in the Festival. By using former performers’ accounts, the research also examines the phenomenological here and now of religiosity experienced by the faithful vis-à-vis the Father in the otherworldly time and place of Jucheism. The main argument is that Jucheism in its affective-relational features is significantly modeled after the familial relational dynamics shared among Koreans. The Arirang Festival illustrates that the creativity and endurance of North Korean statehood lies in large part in its exploitation for its own purposes of the familiar and familial psychodynamics of ordinary North Koreans.

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Additional Information

ISSN
2167-2040
Print ISSN
2093-7288
Pages
pp. 93-122
Launched on MUSE
2013-11-28
Open Access
No
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