Despite its monumental scale, the 1989 World Festival of Youth and Students in Pyongyang has received little scholarly attention. How did North Korea manage to entice thousands of foreign participants, including Christians and social democrats, and mitigate the potential negative ideological repercussions that could arise from such openness? Fortunately, the East German archives offer unprecedented insights into festival preparations, ideological strategies, and conflicts, given East Germany’s pivotal supportive role in North Korea’s hosting endeavors. Drawing extensively from these materials, this study proposes that in order to successfully host the festival North Korea embraced and adopted a polyphonic strategy, deeply rooted in Soviet practices, that revolved around the concept of peace. This strategy featured an externally oriented overtone directed at foreign youth and, concurrently, an inwardly focused, theoretical undertone that aimed to validate the communist leadership and promote the universality of the state ideology.

You do not currently have access to this content.