If you've been reading about North Korea, the chances are that you have heard about the mass games. Well, what exactly are the mass games, how did they come to be, how many people are involved, where do they take place and when are they held?
The DPRK's Mass Games have become increasingly known world wide for being impressive shows involving literally tens of thousands of participants. So what exactly are the Mass Games?
The Mass Games are a 90 minute show held at the biggest stadium in the world, the Rungrado May Day Stadium, consisting of synchronised gymnastics, dances and martial arts performances on the football pitch.
In the background there is a stand with over 17 thousand middle school students, each holding a large book. They show a page of the book to the audience and each page forms a tiny "pixel" of the whole stand's picture which in fact is a gigantic mosaic. Students then flip pages in their books. As each student flips a new page the overall picture created by everyone will vary. Each student can have up to 170 pages in their book.
Coordination is critical, whether it be for the people in the stands or those performing on the field. This event stresses the importance of collectiveness over the individual and every single aspect of it is breathtaking; from the impressive shows on the field, to the giant mosaics and the atmosphere created by the local audience inside and outside the stadium.
People literally practice for months for this grandiose event, and it is possible seeing them publicly do so in the streets of Pyongyang the months prior to when they start. Right before the beginning of each show, there are crowds in the streets and outside the stadium singing and marching together creating an exhilarating ambiance which ends in 90 minutes of pure excitement inside the stadium.
The Mass Games are held at the Rungrado May Day Stadium, the largest stadium in the world.
The first mass gymnastics that took place in the DPRK were held in September 1961, just 7 years after the Korean War and 16 years after liberation from Japanese colonial rule. The title of the performance was "The Era of the Workers' Party."
In 1971 the Korean Mass Gymnastics Production Company was created and led to the quick development of the mass games into what they are today. The Mass Gymnastics Production Company consisted of experts in music, gymnastics and visual arts and it helped develop the mass games into what they are today.
The Arirang Mass Games were a particular type of Mass Games that were premiered in April 2002 to mark the 90th anniversary of the birth of President Kim Il Sung (15th April) and the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People's Army (25th April). The performance then took place every year from 2005 to 2013.
The Arirang Mass Games, through the the representation of the Arirang Korean folk song, told the story of the DPRK's history. It expressed the struggle of the Korean people against the Japanese, the Korean War and the reconstruction of a country completely devastated by it, turning into a prosperous nation.
On 9 September 2018, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the DPRK and after a 5 year hiatus, the Mass Games were held again in Pyongyang. Leader Kim Jong Un attended the opening ceremony which were able to see too. It was a truly unique experience. Please click here to see what it was like to see Leader Kim Jong Unin a stadium packed with 150,000 people plus performers.
These new mass games included lit-up drones flying in a synchronised way forming slogans in the sky, lasers and spectacular acrobatic shows. The whole stadium lit up.
As for the messages portrayed, a lot of stress was put on the DPRK's friendly relationship with China and South Korea. Images of Leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in were formed by the 17,000 plus backdrop in the stadium. In fact, Moon Jae-in attended the Mass Games and made a 7 minute speech at the May Day Stadium, the first time a South Korean president made a speech to a North Korean audience. He stressed that North and South Korea should be one as was the case before the war.
In 2019 the Mass Games resumed. That year's title was the Land of the People. They initially started in June, but were then postponed and resumed in July lasting until October.
The Arirang performance was added to the Guinness Book of World Records on 14 August 2007 for being the largest gymnastic performance on Earth. It had 109,000 participants.
The Arirang Mass Games also received the most prestigious award in the DPRK, the Kim Il Sung Prize as well as the Sun Medal.
The price for the Mass Games depend on the seating area you choose. Seats are divided into 4 areas; 3rd class, 2nd class, 1st class and VIP.
Rates for the Mass Games in 2018 and 2019 were as follows:
You can see a seating map below:
|3rd Class||100 Euros||2nd Class||300 Euros||1st Class||500 Euros||VIP||800 Euros|
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