Shredding the DMZ: North Korea's First Skatepark as Cultural Barometer
It looks like under Kim Jong-un—son of Kim Jong-il—North Koreans may finally be able to let their hair down a bit. As part of an effort to increase interest in "physical culture," the communist leader has opened a new sports and spa facility, complete with a skatepark, in the capital Pyongyang. The Ryugyong Health Complex, People’s Open-air Ice Rink and the Pyongyang Skate Park facilities are encouraging signs from the nation's new, younger leadership.
The Ryugyong Health Complex has a total floor space of 60,000 square feet with facilities for bathing, hairdressing, beauty, and massage treatment, and physical fitness. It has the capacity to serve 7,200 people a day. The People’s Open Air Ice Rink has a total floor space of over 21,000 square fee. Both the ice rink and skate park will be open year round.
Earlier this year, filmmaker Patrik Wallner of VisualTraveling tried his hand at taking some skateboarding footage and was denied, which led to him crashing the festivities surrounding Kim Il-sung's birthday in April, captured in this video below. In an Atlantic interview with Wallner, who has traveled to the country twice, he said, "Skateboarding is very harmless in the eyes of the North Koreans, but it’s not tolerated. They kept referring to it as 'nonsense,' meaning skateboarding wasn't accepted, and would be denied in most places, especially at any war memorials or statues of the Kims -- places that have marble stairs, ledges, ramps, obstacles that are essential for skateboarding."
Could the new structure in Pyongyang point towards a more open attitude to gnarly shredding? Is North Korea getting a much needed fun infusion?