A short introduction to the DPRK North Korea Mass Games, the largest performance in the world!
North Korea Mass Games Factfile -
What: Mass Games gymnastics performance in North Korea
Venue: Rungrado May Day Stadium
Location: Pyongyang, North Korea
Date: Arirang Mass Games 2002 - 2013, Glorious Country Mass Games 2018
Next Date: September 2019
The North Korean Mass Games (집단체조 | 集團體操) is an enormous synchronized gymnastic and dance performance, primarily held in Pyongyang’s Rungrado May Day Stadium. As the biggest stadium in the world, it's a very fitting location to house the world's largest gymnastic performance - as titled by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2007.
Over the decade, this distinctly North Korean art form has evolved to larger and more extravagant levels.
From 2002-2013, the performance was known as the ‘Arirang’ Mass Games (아리랑축제 | 阿里郎祝祭), and in 2018 the mass games returned as ‘The Glorious Country’ (빛나는 조국 예술공연 | 光輝的祖國藝術公演).
For the Mass Games in 2019, it has yet to be confirmed what the theme and name will be.
What are the Mass Games?
The Mass Games is a 90-minute performance of dancing, gymnastics, acrobatics, singing, and other dramatic performances.
It features the infamous 'largest picture in the world’. This is a giant mosaic in the background made up of individual students holding up a book to create a gigantic scene when the student turns the page of the book.
The Mass Games put emphasis on group dynamics rather than the individual and play an important role socialist ideology.
North Korea Mass Games History
Mass Games held in the Rungrado May Day Stadium from 2002 - 2013 were known as Arirang Mass Games. These were held annually (with the exception of 2006). Before this, Mass Games were held in Kim Il Sung Stadium in Pyongyang.
Mass Games were also held in different countries over the years, including in Guyana, Germany, Romania, Bulgaria, and Japan.
The only place you can experience the Mass Games today is in North Korea.
Find out more about the history of the North Korea Mass Games.
Arirang Mass Games
Arirang Mass Games: 아리랑 축제 2002 - 2013
The Arirang Mass Games were first held in the Rungrado May Day Stadium from 2002 - 2013 (excluding 2006).
The name ‘Arirang’ refers to the popular Korean folk story about a couple who were torn apart by an evil landlord. Here, this can be interpreted to represent the division of Korea to North and South. ‘Arirang’ is also the name of a famous Korean song, popular both in the North and South. As part of the first (and so far only ever) Western band to play in Pyongyang, Laibach performed the song Arirang to a North Korean audience in Pyongyang in 2015.
The Glorious Country Mass Games
The Glorious Country Mass Games: 빛나는 조국 예술공연 2018
Think fire, 4D effect moving pictures and futuristic drone displays
After 5 years of absence, the North Korea Mass Games made a come-back in 2018 under the new title 'The Glorious Country' (빛나는 조국 예술공연 | 光輝的祖國藝術公演).
These Mass Games had all the glory of the previous Arirang Mass Games with over 100,000 participants all being cheered on by a crowd of as even more, but definitely pumped up to a Mass Games Recharged. Think fire, 4D effect moving pictures and futuristic drone displays.
Despite the new features, the Glorious Country Mass Games still retained the main features that made the Arirang Games unique. Thousands of participants moving in perfect harmony to tell key aspects of Korea’s history and culture. And, of course, the infamous backdrop moving picture - actually made up of thousands of small cards, behind which children skilfully work behind changing the colour of the cards in unison to create the illusion that the picture is moving.
One notable factor of the Glorious Country Mass Games 2018 was the strong theme of international relations and North and South Korea reunification. The footage of Marshal Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae In meeting and shaking hands at the Demilitarized Zone for the first time was also shown on a big screen in the background, highlighting Korea’s ongoing desire for reunification.
How Does North Korea Prepare for the Mass Games?
Producing the largest gymnastics performance is no small feat. Participants are usually university students and high-school students. Each student will be allocated to a certain section of the Mass Games Performance. Students spend hours every day practising during the summer months before the Mass Games take place (usually September time).
You can see various groups of students practising throughout Pyongyang in the build-up to the Mass Games. This includes various popular spots such as Kim Il Sung Square and near the Arch of Triumph.
The Mass Games and Koryo Tours
Ever since, we have followed the Mass Games closely and arranged for tens of thousands of foreign visitors to see the event. Here are some of our in-depth posts on the Mass Games:
Here's a short teaser from Koryo Tours of the North Korea Mass Games 2018:
How can I see the North Korean Mass Games 2019?
To see the North Korea Mass Games 2019, sign up to one of our North Korea Mass Games tours.
These extend over the course of the event which usually lasts from summer to early autumn. The event takes place in the evening and tickets are purchased in-country from the event organizers via our local Koryo Tour travel company partners.
After booking your tour with Koryo Tours, you can then choose on your seating class.
The price of the ticket for the Mass Games will depend on which seating class you choose. There are various categories ranging from normal seating class right up to VIP class.
Alternatively, you can book a North Korea custom independent tour with Koryo Tours during the Mass Games for an extra special, tailor-made experience.
What else does North Korea have to offer?
Have a look at Koryo Tours' 75-page guide to the DPRK.
It's free and in colour..!