A breathtaking gathering of North Koreans displaying discipline and dedication to their nation -- no, it’s not another one of the North’s military drills. It's the Mass Games. Monday, North Korea marked the beginning of the country’s largest annual celebration of performing arts and gymnastics, with huge groups of performers, highly trained to work as a group. That's a skill that the pariah nation led by Kim Jong-un has mastered to an incredible degree.
Pyongyang’s May Day Stadium, known as the world’s largest stadium, holding 150,000 people, was the scene for the opening of the 2013 Arirang Mass Games, set to last through at least August 9. With more than 100,000 people estimated to be involved in the performance, the 90-minute show featured a variety of human-formed murals promoting Socialist slogans and honoring leaders and North Korean figures, in addition to musical and acrobatic accompaniments. The artistic event is a heavily politicized occasion. According to a newsletter by Koryo Group, a Beijing-based North Korea tourism company, this year some new additions were made to the performance, including a section dedicated to the international friendship that North Korea has with China (see picture below, featuring a rainbow linking North Korea and Beijing's Tiananmen Square Gate), broadening to include Russia as well.
Underneath the overt political tones of nationalism, the mosaic-style performances emphasize the efforts of the group, rather than individual talents.
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Attending the opening of the Games were several members of Koryo Group. Though many of the tour guides have seen the events before, new additions to this year’s performance continue to impress seasoned North Korea travelers and first-time tourists alike.
“The show was terrific, the new parts added for this year were well-received and it was amazing to bbe ack in the May Day stadium seeing this massive event!” Richard Beal, one of the tour group organizers, said of this year’s games. “Every time I see this event it blows me away, as remarkable as ever,” Nancy Pellegrini, another staff member, said.
“The tourists I was sat with loved it, and seeing their enjoyment as well as having my mind blown all over again by the Mass Games makes all the effort we put in worthwhile!” Laurence Gribble, a tour staff member, added.