Kim Jong-un to re-launch Mass Games in bid to lure tourism dollars
North Korea looks set to resurrect a mass acrobatic extravaganza in what appears to be a renewed drive to boost tourism revenue in the isolated regime.
The expected relaunch of the so-called Arirang “Mass Games”, traditionally an acrobatic, dance and gymnastic performance involving up to 100,000 participants in Pyongyang’s 150,000-seater May Day Stadium, was revealed over the weekend by foreign tour companies operating in North Korea.
“We’re hearing from multiple different sources within the DPRK (North Korea) that the MASS GAMES will return in 2018!” said Beijing-based Koryo Tours on its Twitter account.
“The specifics aren’t entirely clear yet. But we wanted to share this incredibly exciting news with you at the earliest opportunity.”
In a blog post, Koryo, which has a British manager, described the Games as “the biggest and most elaborate human performance on planet earth.”
From 2007 to 2013 the festival was an annual summer ritual, popular with tourists who were transfixed by the mesmerising grandeur of thousands of performers dancing and marching with military precision on the world’s largest stadium stage.
It stopped abruptly in 2013 for unspecified reasons. This year’s Games may take place in September to celebrate the 70 th anniversary of the founding of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said the tour operator.
Koryo, and other travel firms, who have long-argued that tourism plays a vital “soft power” role in engaging with the hermit kingdom, have enthusiastically embraced reports of the event’s return.
However, critics of the mass games have previously denounced it as a spectacle underpinned by a cruel and coercive regime.
#MassGames back again! https://t.co/y8x2TP8aLE #see this amazing spectacle with #KoryoTours in #Pyongyang #NorthKorea in September 2018
— Koryo Tours (@KoryoTours) March 17, 2018
Meanwhile Pyongyang is reportedly planning another tourist promotion centred on Kim dynasty propaganda, in what some have suggested is a measure to generate hard foreign currency to soften the blow of international sanctions over the regime’s nuclear and weapons programme.
The new “exclusive” tours, the brainchild of the state-sponsored Kim Il-Sung Kim Jong-il foundation, are expected to charge over £ 2,000 for thrill-seekers to visit locations said to be “sacred” to the Kim family.
This would include Mount Paektu, the birthplace of the current leader’s father, Kim Jong-il, according to popular regime mythology.
“The authorities are likely to be able to earn a lot of foreign currency from tourists who are attracted to the idea of enjoying luxurious facilities in this secretive nation,” a source in Pyongyang told the Daily NK website.
United Nations-backed sanctions are said to be taking such a toll on North Korea’s economy that the authorities have ordered citizens to use ox carts or bicycles instead of cars, to conserve precious fuel.
An unnamed source in North Pyongan Province told the Daily NK that the number of cars on the streets had recently plunged by as much as 40 per cent.
After a tense 2017, in which Pyongyang carried out its sixth nuclear test and test-fired its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the UN capped North Korea’s refined oil imports, including diesel and gasoline, at 500,000 barrels a year, and restricted crude oil imports to 4 million a year.
The reclusive regime has also lost valuable foreign revenue through new international restrictions on its overseas workers.