May 20, 2019 11:25
The controversial Falun Gong spiritual movement that originated in China is spreading quickly in Pyongyang despite a crackdown by an anxious regime, according to sources.
Radio Free Asia quoted an unnamed source as saying, "In early April, the police issued a proclamation ordering citizens to voluntarily report their status as believers in Falun Gong. They threatened to impose harsh punishments on those who don't turn themselves in but are found after the reporting period."
The Chinese government has been cracking down harshly on the movement, which is widely seen as harmless outside its borders and combines meditation practice with a bland-sounding moral message drawn from Buddhism and Taoism.
One source said more than 100 Falun Gong followers were arrested during a crackdown in Pyongyang last month, but the negative publicity backfired and actually sparked interest in the movement, including from the Pyongyang elite.
North Korean authorities "can't predict how many more Falun Gong followers they will arrest and since [the religion] is spreading among high-ranking government officials and their families, it is becoming more than a troubling issue for them," the source told RFA.
Meanwhile, North Korea will start putting on its queasy mass games next month, where up to 100,000 people are mobilized to hop about in unison and wave colored flags. They have been denounced as human rights abuses by the international community as participants are trained for months under conditions that do not allow the slightest mistake.
The title of the performances has changed from "Glorious Country" last year to "Land of the People." They are mainly staged to bring in visitors from abroad who are not automatically offended by displays of large-scale uniformity, and a VIP seat costs around W1.07 million, while a first-class seat costs W670,000 (US$1=W1,196).
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