Jang Hye-won(University of North Korean Studies doctoral program graduate) Soirée celebrating Youth Day©Rodong Sinmun/SPN(Seoul Pyongyang News) Recently North Korea celebrated Youth Day on Aug. 28, the 73rd anniversary of the foundation of their government on Sept. 9, and the Party Foundation Day on Oct. 10, so in Pyongyang, students and young people held dances at Kim Il Sung Square, Kaesonmun Square, and the April 25 House of Culture Plaza, etc. Not only in Pyongyang, but also all across North Korea, dances are held regularly each year to recognize national holidays and political events. In smaller cities, the dances are held at plazas near bronze statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il or Immortality Towers, which are engraved with text posthumously honoring the immortality of the two former leaders. North Korea defines mass dances as “a style of dance performed in public by the people,” and they explain, “It is an important method to cultivate the collective spirit and guarantee cultural life among the people.” Put simply, mass dances are North Korea’s official dances held at political events and in public spaces. Mass dances are themselves a type of political activity. Accordingly, the people who participate in the mass dances cannot use other dance moves than the ones which are officially prescribed for the mass dances. If by chance someone makes free movements according to their own flow of consciousness and breaks the unity of the mass dance, then they could become the focus of criticism. Nonetheless, young North Koreans do not all hate the mass dance events, because the mass dances are a special circumstance in which men and women are paired up and can hold or clap their hands together, so they are a cause for excitement. Firstly, on days when mass dance events are scheduled, male students enjoy to dress sharply in formal attire and female students enjoy to wear the traditional dresses which are called ‘chima jeogori.’ Especially since the 2000s, skirts which just cover the knees - somewhat shorter than the traditional length - have become popular and young women and girls have become more interested in traditional clothing. Like the South Korean ‘hanbok,’ the color, design and lengths of traditional clothing in North Korea has also become more diverse. Many female students wear dresses and skirts for comfort, but the mass dances are an opportunity to wear fancy traditional clothes and show off their beauty. Figure 2 Youth Day festival dancing ©Pyongyang Korean Central News Agency/Yonhap During the mass dances, there are just a few repeating moves for each song, so they are not hard to follow. The mass dance songs are arranged as cheerful, joyful ballads, and there are many natural opportunities to meet and hold the hands of not only the person across from you, but also the person next to them, and even the person next to them. Some students quietly try to take a place across from someone they like, and some students express their discomfort with someone by outright changing places to move away from them. The mass dances are also a fun chance to admire the students of other universities. Science and engineering universities with more male students make for a monotonous view, but on the other hand, business and economics universities which have more female students are proud to be colorful. Sometimes plucky male students say “Hey, even the smell is different here” and propose to hold joint mass dances with the female students of other universities. However, these proposals are not made by one or two students individually, but usually as official proposals by student leaders, a ‘platoon leader’ or ‘battalion commander.’ North Korean universities all have military administrative systems: a class is a platoon, a department is a company, the students in one year are a battalion, and the whole university forms a regiment or a division. Students who make new friends at the mass dances or want to continue the fun have after parties to continue the entertainment. Sometimes these are spontaneous and sometimes it is planned in advance where to hang out after the mass dances. No less than the mass games, which are also called group exercises, the mass dances have pre-determined movements and rules and are a type of political event, but they also provide young people with an officially approved cultural life. Figure 3 Performance of “Shining Fatherland” atNorth Korean mass games (Sept. 2018) ©AP/Yonhap Of course, those who detest the mass dances are not few. Attendance is compulsory, and one must only use pre-determined movements, so they hate the strict atmosphere. In some situations they are forced to dance in the hot sun with sweat pouring, and sometimes they shiver in light dance costumes in the cold weather and have to stamp their cold feet when it snows. However, it is a problem if people often miss the mass dances without a satisfactory excuse. Last year, North Korea passed an anti-reactionary thought law which tightens the control of young people’s cultural activities which are deemed anti-socialist or un-socialist. Imprisonment is unconditionally imposed for watching South Korean media or foreign movies, and South Korean expressions and clothing styles are regulated. In October, one pities anew the North Korean young people who must follow state prescriptions even for expressions of individual joy and happiness.