Arirang Festival Mass Games Pyongyang, North Korea

This has nothing to do with Shapeways but I got a couple of questions about my visit to North Korea so decided to post some pictures here of the Arirang Mass Games in Pyongyang. I’ve put them below the fold so read on if you’re interested.

It is very difficult to even contemplate let alone capture the sheer scale of the mass games. Over a 100,000 performers take part. Some are professional acrobats but most are schoolchildren and other non-professionals. The Mass Games are very impressive to watch and manage to convey a sense of unity, purpose and ‘weight of the state’ while turning a 100,000 people into pixels.

To get an idea of the scale of the thing, look at the picture above which captures most but not all of one of the images during the one hour performance.

Then check out this one below made right during a turn.

Finally, check out a tight zoom of the individual pixels.

Now consider that, pictured above are only the card-turners, there are also tens of thousands of gymnasts, Taekwondo people, children etc. that continually stream in and out of the field of the stadium. There are 30,000 card-turners and an additional 70,000 performers on the field. 


The performers practice several times a week for months to prepare for the games. During the final month they practice each day after work or school.

Most of the performances, roles, dances & images remain unchanged from Arirang Festival to the next.

Compare the photograph above to this one taken in 2002 for example. This means that many can identify with certain roles and groups of performers from when they themselves took part.

All in all it was a pretty overwhelming thing to watch. The name Arirang comes from an tragic & old Korean folk tale and song about a star crossed couple yearning to be reunited.

The images and performances of the mass games performance center around unification and national unity and feature political developments and themes. The performance has five acts: Arirang Nation, Arirang of Army Centred Policy, Arirang Rainbow, Arirang of Reunification and Arirang of the powerful nation. 

The games are conducted several times a week from the end of August until the beginning of October. About 2-3000 tourists visit North Korea each year in tour groups. Indeed the time during the Arirang Festival Mass Games is the only time of year that Americans are allowed to visit. 


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