The evening program was the highly anticipated Mass Games, the primary reason I signed up for a North Korea tour in the summer. It’s not “games” in the competition sense but rather an incredible display of teamwork and synchronization that truly reflects the collective philosophy of socialism.
There are allegedly 100,000 performers; we’ve found that the North Koreans tend to exaggerate their greatness but even in my estimates there must have been 40,000+ people working together to put on an amazing show. The Mass Games Arirang performance has been an annual tradition; each year the show is more grand and more spectacular. There are four performances a week from ~July to ~September and I was so excited to attend it. Many Koreans traveled from their hometowns to see the performance and I’m sure their ticket was fairly inexpensive. For us, we had 4 ticket options: VIP 300 Euros, 1st Class 150 Euros, 2nd Class 100 Euros, and 3rd Class 80 Euros. VIP is a complete waste of money as 1st Class, at half the price, was located literally one row behind. 1st Class also came with a table in front of the seat, which can be useful for taking propping cameras to take photos and videos in low light. I opted for 2nd Class, which was only about 30 feet away from 1st Class; the main difference was the lack of a table. The seat was good enough for me. It’s hard to explain what the Mass Games are like so here are a few videos that hopefully capture the spirit of the event.
The backdrop is comprised of kids holding up colored cards and flipping them in unison to create incredible scenes. In the US, we have a hard enough time getting a group of people to do a simple card stunt so you can imagine how impressed I was by this display.
The performance took place at Mayday Stadium, with a reported capacity of 150,000. The Koreans claim it’s the largest stadium in the world but quickly admitted that it is not in the Guinness Book of World Records. Like I said, the Koreans seem to like to exaggerate. By doing a quick count of rows, I estimated a capacity of 80,000.