The documentary A State of Mind broke ground in 2003 as the first western production to be allowed unrestricted access into Pyongyang, filming in the homes of friends Pak Hyon Sun (age 13) and Kim Song Yun (age 11), and showing insights into their daily life as they trained for gymnastics performances in a run of mass games.
Their determined preparation leading to the film’s “socialist realist extravaganza” mass games finale is fascinating, but I more enjoyed the peeks into the girl’s daily lives: attempts to ditch homework, delight as one girl inherits a room when an older sister joins the army, and a father complaining about his house full of chatty woman.
The filmmakers successfully present a non judgmental viewpoint, but there is no mistaking the reality of a people’s collectivist mindset. Sacrifice of individuality to the needs of the state is the film’s major theme – which is precisely what the mass game and other mass events aim to be the ultimate representation of.
Filmed a decade ago, this is not the DPRK I am firsthand familiar with, but I still love this documentary and consider it required viewing for anyone with an interest in the country. I personally know the director, and although I haven’t met the girls from the film, I have seen behind the scenes photos of them from the production, making this extra special film for me.
You can find A State of Mind on Amazon.com.
2011 Arirang Mass Games – photo by Joseph A Ferris III
From my contacts at Koryo Tours: Word from our sources in Pyongyang is that the Arirang Mass Games of 2012 will be the last – so we suggest you sign up now to ensure that you can see this remarkable event while it is still running.
While mass games have been performed since the 1940s in the DPRK the Arirang show is the largest and most impressive they have ever produced. Born in 2002, since 2007 it has been an annual event, but 2012 will be Arirang’s 10th anniversary, and it seems the powers that be have decided to close the curtain. As for the reason, our Korean partners suggest that the narrative needs to change with the times. Combining dance, gymnastics, propaganda, politics, music, and even unicycling, this spectacular performance chronicles the struggles of the Korean people suffering under Japanese occupation, moving into the independent era and building a modern country – basically the period linked to the first 100 years since the birth of North Korea’s Eternal President Kim Il Sung.
However, since 2013 marks the 65th anniversary of the foundation of the republic (Sept 9th) as well as the 60th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the Korean War (July 27th), organizers are reportedly planning a whole new performance for next year.
So if you haven’t seen Arirang yet, or if you want to see it one last time, this is your chance. Don’t miss out on the biggest performance in the world – an event that makes any Olympic opening ceremony look like a school play! Staged at the massive May Day stadium in Pyongyang, Arirang is running from August 1st to September 9th, 2012, but as with the last few years we do expect an extension, perhaps as far as the middle of October (usually it finally ends around Oct 17th).
Don’t miss the Arirang Mass Games! Tell us a little about yourself, and I will hook you up with a great DPRK travel deal for visiting!
2011 Arirang Mass Games – photo by Joseph A Ferris III
From my contacts at Koryo Tours: We have just been informed that North Korea’s spectacular Arirang Mass Games will be taking place once again this year. The officially confirmed dates so far are from August 1st – September 9th (Sept 9th is DPRK’s National Day, a major holiday in North Korea) but we do expect the dates to be extended as it is normal for the initial confirmed run of the Mass Games to be this long, the event often finishes as late as mid-October, we will of course keep you updated!
If you’ve ever wanted to see 100,000 performers in a 90 minute spectacular combination of gymnastics, propaganda, dance, music, and of course unicycling all with the backdrop of the world’s largest screen – one made up of 20,000 schoolchildren flipping coloured cards to create an ever-shifting display unrivaled anywhere else in the world – then this is the event for you. Truly unforgettable and awe-inspiring, book now for something that will not be easily forgotten!
All tours that take place in this period can see the Mass Games, the event takes place in the evening and so is easily fitted to any tour schedule. The Mass games will run 5 times a week (on Mon, Wed, Thurs, Fri, Sat) so plenty of opportunities for you to attend, you can even go more than once on a tour if you so desire!
North Korean girls perform mass gymnastics at the Arirang Mass Games in Pyongyang, North Korea.
It’s not all about high kicking sexy military girls and mass flip card human mosaics at the North Korean Arirang Mass Games; experience the more delicate side of the games with the following set of photos showcasing the beauty and grace of North Korean women in their traditional Korean chosŏn-ot dresses.
Young North Korean maidens dancing in an orchard……
and then the nightmare begins!
A series of photos from our day of Frisbee diplomacy in Pyongyang, North Korea.
Above Gabriel Mizrahi of The North Korea Blog teaches young North Koreans how to throw a Frisbee.
Dancing chickens, cows, sheep, and even a giant pig – a nightmarishly weird boasting of agriculture and animal husbandry power and success during the North Korean Arirang Mass Games.
I’m looking for a few good people to help fill a VIP custom trip to North Korea. This is the big one, April 15th is the 100th birthday of the Eternal President Kim Il Sung, and I plan to be there for all the celebrations! Also included on the trip will be first time ever visits to heavy industry sites, and to Pujon, a mysterious location deep in the interior of the country.
We are looking at around 2,000 Euro for the trip + China double entry visa + flight to Beijing. You will be traveling with an exclusive group, so contact me so I can get to know you (so I can screen you) – visas into the country will be tight at this time, so we need to have applications in by Jan.
Check out the proposed itinerary below:
Hello from North Korea!
Thurs 12th April
Flight to Pyongyang (departs Beijing Airport Terminal 2) 14:00. Arrive Pyongyang, meet guides, transfer to hotel via Arch of Triumph. Dinner at hotel. Potonggang Hotel, Pyongyang.
Pyongyang Metro (6 stations), Mansudae Art Studio, Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum, Drive to Nampo, Chollima Steel Works, Tae’an Heavy Machine Tool Complex, Tae’an Glass Factory. Hot Spa Resort, Nampo.
West Sea Barrage, Nampo Taekwondo School, return to Pyongyang via Mt Ryonggak for picnic lunch, Shooting Range, Juche Tower, Pyongyang Film Studios, Paradise Department Store and Microbrewery, Kaeson funfair after dinner. Koryo Hotel, Pyongyang.
100th birthday of President Kim Il Sung: Exact nature of events to be confirmed but should include visit to Kumsusan Memorial Palace (Mausoleum of President), Kimilsungia Flower Exhibition, Mansudae Grand Monument, Mangyongdae Funfair, walk in Moranbong Park (where locals go to enjoy their day off), expected mass dance, other celebratory events, MASS GAMES.
Aririang Mass Games
Drive to Wonsan (4 hrs with breaks), lunch at Dongmyong Hotel. Songdowon Schoolchildren’s Camp, walk in central square and around docks. Evening walk along pier (EUR 1 entry). Dongmyong Hotel, Wonsan.
Drive to Hamhung (approx 3 hours) via Wonsan Agricultural University and Tongbong Cooperative Farm, lunch in Hamhung, Kim Il Sung Statue and central park, Native House of Ri Song Gye, drive past Hungnam Fertiliser Factory and Vinalon Factory (not possible to visit but can ask driver to go slowly and take photos from bus), relaxing on beach at Majon Guesthouse. Majon Guesthouse.
Drive to Pujon county deep in the North Korean interior, see stunning mountain scenery and the rural way of life, picnic lunch. Ascend to the top of North Korea’s second highest mountains for an unparalleled view of somewhere that nobody you know has ever laid eyes on, See the spectacular Stone River where thousands of giant boulders form a cascade down the hillside. DPRK’s famous ‘slogan trees’ can also be seen here. Return to Hamhung. Sinhungsan Hotel, Hamhung.
Very early departure to return to Pyongyang. Arrive Pyongyang late afternoon, School Children’s Palace Tour and performance (if time allows). Yanggakdo Hotel, Pyongyang.
Drive to Mt Myohyang (2 hrs), International Friendship Exhibition, Pohyon Buddhist Temple, walking in area (can have picnic lunch – for surcharges see below – or just lunch in hotel) Return to Pyongyang, Museum of Metro Construction, Farewell dinner at Duck BBQ restaurant. Yanggakdo Hotel, Pyongyang.
Farewell dinner at Duck BBQ restaurant
Transfer to airport for flight JS151 to Beijing. 08:55 departure, arrive Beijing approx 10:00. End of tour.
Photo and story by Gabriel Mizrahi
Crumbling from end to end and punctured by gaping holes, Pyongyang’s massive 12-lane Youth Hero Highway is a free-for-all for the few dozen vehicles that actually use it. Trucks, buses and the occasional sedan weave in and out of oncoming traffic in order to avoid the sickly workers stooping to repair the road, a symbol of the mindless excess and abject failure of North Korea’s infrastructure. The road was built, James Bond Villain explained, by students and people under the age of 30. It is a point of national pride………..Continue reading this post at The North Korea Blog.
North Korea Shooting Range – Guns, Girls, and Beer – Photo by Joseph A Ferris III
In an online article at Mademan.com, Jordan Harbinger answers why North Korea is better than Vegas. Backing up this claim, Jordan points out such North Korean show stoppers as the Arirang Mass Games, massive propaganda statues, gasoline clam bakes, and my personal favorite, guns, girls, and beer at the Pyongyang shooting range.
Sure, the Gun Store in Vegas may have MP5s ready to rip up some paper targets downrange, but the shooting ranges in Pyongyang put that all to shame with cold beer and hot women in uniform reloading your weapon for you, then yelling at you in Korean to put down your beer while you fire for greater accuracy and safety or something.
Jordan Harbinger at the Pyongyang gun range.
When our North Korean guide asked us if we wanted to arrange a trip to the shooting range we said “Hell Yeah!” The shooting range turned out to be a type of North Korean men’s club, with young ladies in military style uniforms handling the guns, conducting the safety checks, and pouring the beers. This little side trip was not in the tour itinerary and there were some long faces from the other tourists at the hotel that night when we told our stories about this outing.
Neil Strauss at the Pyongyang, North Korea gun range.
Gabriel Mizrahi at the Pyongyang gun range.
The sexy sailor girls of North Korea marching in the rain at Arirang Mass Games, Pyongyang, DPRK – posted for no other reason except that I love sexy sailor girls!
By Contributing Writer Gabriel Mizrahi
Imagine the sight of one-hundred thousand humans executing the world’s most impeccable live performance. This is the Arirang Festival, also known as the Mass Games, dubbed the greatest acrobatic spectacle on earth.
Arirang Mass Games – photo by Joseph Ferris
To the haunting chants of Korean folk music, an orgy of color and music explodes on the field. Baton-wielding military jackets parade in honor of the Dear Leader. Tiny gymnasts in blue uniforms uniforms flip and twirl with cautious grace. Tae Kwon Do athletes perform a complex series of kicks and punches. In the other half of the stadium seats, 20,000 students manipulate colored flipboards that magically shape-shift into pictures of the mythical countryside and portraits of the Great Leader in mind-blowing detail. All the while, the haunting tones of “Arirang” echo in the May Day Stadium, telling the story of a Romeo and Juliet tragedy that doubles as an allegory for the separation of North and South Korea…………Continue reading Arirang Festival Mass Games at The North Korea Blog
I introduced the mass human mosaics of the North Korean Arirang Mass Games in my last post. Just adding a few more photos of these incredible mass flip book images.
“Great Leader” Kim Il-sung
Proof that North Korea is a fun place!
All pictures above are from the Aug. 27th 2011 Arirang Mass Games at the Rungrado May Day Stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea.
Its been a very long day at work, I had to deal with a crew member showing symptoms of a heart attack – a long day indeed! My ship was in port, he got checked out by a doctor, and we are back to sea and sailing east along the coast of South Africa. All of this has nothing to do with North Korea, but if you would like to learn more about our current science expedition please check out our current underway science outreach project.
Like I said, its been a long day, I’m simply going to leave these pics of young North Korean gymnasts performing at Arirang Mass Games, DPRK, North Korea.
- NKorea launches massive dance and gymnastics show (seattletimes.nwsource.com)