At the climax of a festival on ice to celebrate former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il on Friday, Olympic skaters from the host nation and China swapped partners to dance together to symbolize markedly improved relations between Beijing and Pyongyang.
The four skaters — Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik of North Korea, who qualified for last year’s Winter Olympics, and Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, who took the ice dance silver in Pyeongchang — were the star attractions of the pageant.
With portraits of Kim and his father, North Korea’s founder Kim Il-sung, looking down, they smiled and waved to the crowd at the end of the closing sequence.
The show is part of North Korea’s annual festivities to mark the birth of Kim Jong-il, who it says was born on Feb. 16, 1942, at a secret camp on Mount Paektu, the spiritual birthplace of the Korean people.
As well as scores of North Koreans ranging from Olympians to children, about 20 international skaters performed, mostly from eastern European countries.
In a welcome speech, a vice minister described them as coming “to the festival stage with the feeling of humble respect for the great leader comrade Kim Jong-il, the eternal sun of Juche Korea.”
Juche is a North Korean political term that refers to self-reliance.
The North Koreans skated to songs such as We Cannot Live Without Him — an ode to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un — with the Olympic pair accompanied by Confession about loyalty to the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea.
In contrast, a Belarussian took to the ice to Tina Turner’s GoldenEye, lyrics: “GoldenEye I found his weakness/GoldenEye he’ll do what I please.”
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