Keepin' it real
Figure skaters lend presence to North Korean event
Helsinki - Last week Lepistö took part in an international figure skating festival, the 21st annual Paektusan Festival, in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.
Did this regret and distress stop her from cashing the check?
Wow, the Ministry okayed it!? The Finns must be politically-blind.
Originally Posted by brightphoton
It's the annual witch hunt for skaters who take part in this show. Last year it was Tomas Verner (despite not being the only skater to attend last year). This year it's Lepisto (again despite not being the only skater taking part).
If it's any consolation, it makes me think less of all skaters who participate.
I wouldn't call it a witch hunt. It's a valid ethical point to raise. Most people tend to look at an issue far away from them and think, "What's the fuss all about?" We should all be wider awake about things like this.
However, that's us, who are mostly adults who are out in the world and who presumably listen to the news. It's our job to be good citizens of the planet. It's been my experience that people like entertainers and athletes, who spend so much of their time in a cocoon, concentrating on themselves (not in a conceited way, but just out of necessity in order to keep improving), unfortunately are often clueless about current affairs and the political impact of certain issues and actions. This doesn't excuse what the Ministry (presumably made up of educated adults) approved, but it kind of explains why Lepistö would not at first see why there would be any problem skating in one of the world's most repressive dictatorships. She deserves to hear that a fuss is being made afterward, though.
Some years ago people started analyzing German and Austrian performers and artists who had flourished decades earlier during Hitler's rule. Were they Nazi sympathizers? Opportunists who decided not to pay attention to the cleanliness of the hand that fed them? Or just clueless in the way of the young who have no other path toward their goals? One of the people who was singled out for criticism was soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, who was just starting out at the time. In her own defense she said, "I lived for my art." Most people took that as a valid excuse and moved on. On the other hand, some artists got themselves out of Germany/Austria and spoke out vocally against Nazism. These included Marlene Dietrich. Not everyone is as wide awake as Dietrich, but one always hopes for more like her.
Since Lepistö doesn't live in Korea and would not suffer if she spoke out against the Kim regime, one would hope that she might have the strength to say "No, thanks" when offered a chance to make money while North Koreans starved. I'm disappointed that she didn't, but from children I don't expect much more. When a young athlete or singer is awake enough to realize that this is an ethical issue, I'm thrilled.
But it should be discussed. This is how change happens. It's been done before. In the 1960s, singer Dusty Springfield went on a tour of South Africa. She put an anti-apartheid clause in her contract, meaning that she refused to perform before segregated audiences. Because this went against the country's laws, Dusty herself was arrested and was escorted with her band by armed guards to the airport, and was deported. Nothing happened to change South Africa in 1964. But a concerted and longterm effort by people in all walks of life for many years to come did finally bring change to South Africa. This is what we can do as citizens of the planet. And this is why it's worth questioning whether a Finnish skater should give due attention to her conduct when asked to skate in North Korea.
ANY skater who performs for the North Korean dictatorship is displaying at the very least poor judgment and/or ignorance. If he/she is fully aware of the plight of the North Korean people, then she/he is contemptible.
Originally Posted by antmanb
Really great post Olympia!
I find Lepisto's surprise at the reaction and apologies for causing distress either very naive or disingenuous. How could she not have been aware of problems in North Korea and what the reaction to her trip might be? As was mentioned, the skating world went through this exact thing a year ago.
Cultural 'ambassadors' to despotic regimes can have value. Before she went, or immediately after returning, she should have addressed it more directly. "I went to North Korea to skate. I understand that people have a problem with that for these reasons......, but I thought it was important to go for these reasons........ Here is what I'm going to do with the fee I was paid........"
Being a Korean, Thanks for your thoughtful post, Olympia. I really hope that a change will come to North Korea as soon as possible.
Originally Posted by Olympia
Last edited by cosmos; 02-21-2012 at 01:17 PM.
Rooting for the divas with Kwanford
I have trouble with one skater being singled out for something that apparently many skaters did, including fan favorites such as Shen and Zhao and Plushenko. Here is a blurry clip that includes Plushy, Pechalat/Bourzat, Yu/Wang (I think), Carron/Jones (?), and maybe S/Z. Clearly this is something that awareness needs to be raised about in the skating world. It's not a matter of one skater from Finland.
ETA: That may be Denkova/Staviski, not Carron/Jones - D/S are in the clip that Buttercup posted.
Last edited by Spun Silver; 02-21-2012 at 01:26 PM.
Off the ice
I don't know if this is a dress rehearsal or a performance or whatever, but here's what appears to be the NK show. Plushenko is at 9:25, Lepistö around 33:30.
I'm conflicted about it, myself. I'm not comfortable with the idea of athletic/cultural/whatever boycotts, and I can understand wanting to visit North Korea - it's a difficult place to get to, and one most people will not get to see in the foreseeable future. But OTOH, the audience for these shows is handpicked; this is not a performance for the North Korean people so much as the carefully selected few. Considering the reaction Tomas Verner got last season, I'm surprised the skaters weren't more cautious this time around. And I realize many skaters need money, but it's not as though this is the only option.
Originally Posted by ImaginaryPogue
I don't want to blame skaters who participated, but I wish Plushenko had not made those statements. Was it necessary?
Plyushchenko was quoted by KCNA as saying that people around the world mourned the death of Kim Jong-il in December.
He hoped that the North Koreans would be successful in carrying out the orders of Kim Jong-il.
Rooting for the divas with Kwanford
^ Well, Russia (and China) are allies of North Korea. Something we don't usually like to talk about....
Pechalat and Bourzat were there for a third time! Here is an article: http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2012/2012...0217-20ee.html