the amazing show!
Imagine 50,000 performers in a stadium. They jump, dance and march with sheer synchronicity. Apart from this, they’re backed by another group of 50,000 performers whose job is to flash flip card propaganda mosaics using human hands. If there is ever a highlight to a trip to North Korea, the Arirang Mass Games has to be it. I go one step further and dare say that this is probably the most spectacular thing to see in the entire Korean peninsula. Watching these “games” alone already justifies a trip to the Hermit Kingdom. It has to be seen to be believed.
see who are behind those flipcards!
the dancers up close
marching to the tune of kim il sung
big brother continues to watch… even in death
The mass games is called as such but it doesn’t really involve any sort of competition. The main theme of the 1.5 hour show is to showcase Korean history, values and ideals through songs, dances and marches; with special effects to boot. It is a relatively new phenomenon, having started only less than a decade ago. It usually starts from late July, and runs until September or sometimes until early October. The Arirang Mass Games have become so popular among visitors to North Korea that its presence coincides with the “peak tourist season,” for whatever that’s worth in an isolated country like North Korea. During these few months, Pyongyang’s hotel occupancy rates rise from 10% to around 40% and visitors come in busloads despite the sweltering heat of the Korean summer.
** SPOILET ALERT** As the name suggests, the show starts with the Korean folk song, “Arirang” and goes on with segments showing various parts of Korean history and culture including the “foreign aggression” bit and taekwondo not just as a sport but also as a philosophy. From here, it gets a little bizarre. Military marches then alternate with dancing pig and chicken mascots while tributes to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il are scattered throughout. Nevertheless, the choreography is impressive to watch, something which can be instilled only by a hardline communist regime. The show eventually ends with another grand parade with dramatic fireworks, but not before tributes to China and Russia are flashed with dancing dragons and dancing bears.
Like shows elsewhere in the world, there is category seating for the Mass Games. Tickets start from EUR 80. Overall heavily recommended. This alone is worth a trip to North Korea.
Oh wow! I totally want to watch this. Next year, I hope!
God! this is my dream!!!
I’ve seen photos of the Mass games, and it still amazes me. It’s not just the display, but the dedication of the performers as well. Great photos!
the wanderer says
Thanks! Highly recommended. If there’s one thing only that you can squeeze into a Korea trip, it should be this!
Love your photos! This is one trip highlight I’d want to experience one day.
I’ve checked prices from Chinese tour operators based in Beijing and it seems more than what I thought. Too bad the euro is more powerful than the dollar 🙁
the wanderer says
Hi Dennis, some of the Beijing-based tour operators are very expensive. There are cheaper options, such as tours booked from the Chinese border town of Dandong or alternative outfits. If you’re keen to know about these, let me know!
Aleah | SolitaryWanderer.com says
Wow, that is really amazing! I want to go there too but I heard it costs more than $1,000 for a tour. Too expensive for me 🙁
the wanderer says
Hi Aleah! There are some budget options these days to North Korea… no need for $1000 🙂
ian | going places says
Only few people blogs this mysterious if not not well-know country for tourist tour. This is a good opener. I wish N. Korea opens more a little bit… in terms of everything.