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View more articles by Colin Zwirko
Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
North Korea’s large-scale propaganda show known as the “mass games” will hold its opening night on June 3, multiple tour agencies operating in the DPRK told NK News on Friday.
Elliott Davies from Uri Tours told NK News “the name is also confirmed to be ‘People’s Country’ and it will be held in Pyongyang’s May Day Stadium from June 3 until mid-October,” adding that the “pricing is the same as last year.”
Representatives from Young Pioneer Tours and Koryo Tours also confirmed the Monday, June 3 opening date, saying the details had been communicated through their North Korean partners.
A precise date for the finale has yet to be announced, though with the event last year being extended multiple times, it may possibly run beyond mid-October.
That event – the first since 2013, titled “The Glorious Country” – opened on the September 9 Foundation Day holiday and ran through November 4, though it was initially announced in state media to last only until the end of September.
Around 1500 seats in the stadium will again be allocated to foreign visitors, with the majority of those expected to be made up of Chinese tourists.
Tickets range in price from 100 euros for the basic seat to 800 euros for a “VIP” seat.
Both Young Pioneer Tours and Koryo Tours representatives said they understand the “grand mass gymnastics and artistic performance” will be held six nights per week.
But while the event is expected to attract large numbers of foreign tourists, it is also controversial, due in part to the open participation of hundreds of children as young as four, who are required to memorize and practice complicated routines for the frequent performances.
With this year’s mass games slated to run for at least 18 weeks, it will also be the longest since at least prior to 2008, when foreign tourists were first invited to attend.
Participants of the show have been observed in the run-up to this year’s event practicing in public spaces outdoors, and buses, trucks, and equipment have been seen in the parking lot outside the May Day Stadium in recent days.
Similar preparations were also observed in Pyongyang throughout last summer, with performers practicing acrobatic routines outdoors and children even seen making colored flip-cards for the “17,490 young students” – according to state media – that would make up the so-called ‘animated human-pixel’ backdrop.
NK News learned from multiple tour agencies earlier this week the mass games would indeed begin in June, following the revelation of activity at the May Day Stadium suggesting North Korea would begin their run earlier this year than last.
One possible date for the finale could be the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) Foundation Day on October 10 – the original deadline for the major Wonsan-Kalma beach tourist zone, and the current deadline for the Yangdok Hot Spring Tourist Area.
The June 3 opening day would not mark any national holiday in North Korea, but it could be used as an opportunity for the country’s leadership to host a guest of honor.
The “Arirang” titled event, however, did not typically open on state holidays prior to 2013.
North Korean state media has yet to announce any information regarding this year’s event, despite its imminent start in just over a week.
Edited by Oliver Hotham