For the first time since 2015, North Korea have announced the Arirang Mass Games will be held this Autumn. The move signals yet a further turn away from confrontation and a single North Korea is seeking peace. As tensions thaw, there has never been a more perfect timing to witness one of the most spectacular displays of organised talent and artistic mastery on Earth. But you’re probably wondering, just what are the Arirang Mass Games, what do they represent? and just why are they so significant? Today, Visit North Korea are proud to bring you all the answers!
The Arirang festival is essentially a series of games, displays and gymnastics which celebrates the Korean nation and the DPRK. “Arirang” as you might be familiar with due to its use by both Koreans in the recent Winter Olympics, is a Korean folk song which gained patriotic popularity during the days of Japanese occupation. The song itself is a derived from a legend of two individuals from differing backgrounds whom fell in love and were tragically separated. How they were separated differs according to the version of the story, but in the version accounted by North Korea, the story tells of a cruel landlord (the United States) whom ultimately separated the two lovers (division of Korea) and thus becoming symbolic of the Korean situation as a whole.
The 2013 Arirang Festival, as seen on North Korea’s official state media website
The festival is therefore a powerful display of patriotism and politics. Held at the world’s largest seater stadium, the Rungrado 1st of May Stadium, the games masterfully symbolizes the story of the North Korean regime with reference to its leaders, the Workers Party and the Korean People’s Army. Simultaneously, it is soaked in other strong nationalist symbols such as Mount Paektu. As noted by Kwon & Chung (2010) “North Korea: Beyond Charismatic Politics” the festival is carefully designed to send diplomatic signals to the world. These can vary from to year, depending on what message the state aims to put out. If one can read Korean and wants to observe this, then pay close attention to the “slogans” which are displayed and so on. Due to the rapid change of events, this year will be exceptionally important. After all, the festival is almost always successful in catching the attention of the international media with its colourful displays and immense organizational mastery.
There is nothing quite like the Arirang Games. Without a doubt, Visit North Korea and our partners will be offering the opportunity to see this historic event as peace on the peninsula continues to consolidate. Stay in tuned for more information on our upcoming program!