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North Korea cancels Pyongyang International Film Festival

North Korea's annual film festival has been canceled, event organizers said Thursday. File Photo by KCNA/UPI
North Korea's annual film festival has been canceled, event organizers said Thursday. File Photo by KCNA/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 17 (UPI) -- North Korea has decided to cancel its annual Pyongyang International Film Festival, due to concerns regarding the novel coronavirus.

A message on the film festival's website stated Thursday the 18th festival is to be canceled this year because of health concerns. North Korean officials have claimed there are zero cases of COVID-19 in the country, but leader Kim Jong Un has also urged his subordinates to step up preventative measures.

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The festival was inaugurated in 1987 and was originally titled the "Pyongyang Film Festival of Non-Aligned and Other Developing Countries," according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.

Since that time, North Korea has reportedly received hundreds of submissions from dozens of countries. The festival also began to open annually in 2018 after operating biennially for decades.

North Korea had planned to roll out the red carpet on Oct. 16, less than a week after the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Korean Workers' Party.

Earlier this year, Beijing-based travel agency Koryo Tours had offered a tour package that included a visit to the opening ceremony of the festival and trips to filming locations in Pyongyang and Kaesong. Koryo Tour founder Nicholas Bonner co-directed a film set in North Korea, Comrade Kim Goes Flying, screened at the festival in 2012.

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On Thursday, PIFF said the festival continues to accept entries for 2021. Event planners also said trips to the event are available with Koryo Tours next year.

While North Korea is holding off on events that involve incoming foreigners, the regime could be making progress on domestic projects.

Korean Workers' Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun reported Thursday the Ansok Tideland, a land reclamation project, was completed in preparation for the October party anniversary. More than 1.2 million square meters of embankment have been built in Onchon County of South Pyongan Province, North Korean state media said.

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