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Chad O'Carroll has written on North Korea since 2010 and writes between London and Seoul.
North Korean authorities will extend the “‘Glorious Country’ grand mass gymnastics and artistic performance” until late October, informed travel industry specialists told NK News on Thursday.
“It seems like an extension will be announced today,” said Simon Cockerell, General Manager of Koryo Tours, on Thursday.
“I would expect it to be extended to maybe October 27, that’s the word on the street here in Pyongyang!”
Meanwhile, tour manager Rowan Beard of the Young Pioneer Tour agency in Beijing said: “it’s officially extended, but the last date of performance hadn’t been announced yet.”
At a minimum, Beard said he expected it to “play for another week,” in order to allow “more locals to watch it.”
Cockerell said that “tens of thousands of people (are attending) per night and almost all are locals,” including a large number of domestic visitors from outside Pyongyang.
“It’s also a great cash cow for (North Korea) from the Chinese tourists,” Beard added. “About 50 Chinese tourists to (every) one Westerner.”
Each additional show could earn organizers as much as 255,000 euros for the 1520 available seats, priced in four tiers from 100 to 800 euros per ticket, according to official numbers provided previously to Koryo Tours.
An NK News review of the 2018 version of the show revealed it to have a heavy historical focus, recalling many slogans, songs, and events from the 1940s to the present day.
The earliest slogans are from August 1948, while more recent ones reflect the developments during Kim Jong Un’s tenure.
In essence, they tell the official, state-approved story of the entire 70 years of North Korea’s history.
However, several important topics which might have been expected to be included were absent.
The first was North Korea’s strategic weapons, which were completely absent from the games despite being an important part of official propaganda until 2018.
The decision is consistent with recent moves by the DPRK to remove anti-American related propaganda at the street level and to leave its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) out of the September 9 military parade.
Economic reforms of the Kim Jong Un era were also omitted from the slogans, despite North Korean literature including references and hints of changes in recent years.
In terms of aesthetic and content, “The Glorious Country” mass games are similar to the previous games North Korea staged called Arirang.
The event has attracted criticism from human rights advocates and the United Nations.
A UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) report on human rights in North Korea, released in 2014, described the mass games as “compulsory mass propaganda events.”
The event attracts “large numbers of tourists, who are often unaware of the human rights violations endured by participating children, who are compelled to participate,” the report said.
North Korea, on the other hand, described the mass performance earlier this week as a display of the “force of Juche Chosun’s single-minded unity and development of Juche arts and culture to boast to the entire world.”
Additional reporting: Colin Zwirko
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: NK News