Starting in early November, North Korean authorities made it mandatory for many North Koreans to attend three mass gymnastics shows, Daily NK has learned.

“Starting early last month and ending Nov. 17, there were three performances of ’The Land of the People’ for North Koreans working in factories and those part of neighborhood and household units,” a Pyongyang-based source told Daily NK on Monday. “The show was put on hold in June [for foreign visitors] and the authorities apparently had to make up for all the foreign currency they could not earn during that time.”

North Korea’s mass gymnastics shows began in April 2002 on the 90th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth, which was also the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea. The show was held yearly until 2013, and abruptly stopped in 2014.

Five years after that, in 2018, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of North Korea, the show reopened with the title “Brilliant Fatherland,” and this year reopened again with the title “The Land of the People.” 


Daily NK sources said that North Korea’s Central Party ordered the mandatory attendance at these performances in early October. Tickets were distributed in bulk to factories and other institutions, and the workers of the corresponding organizations were obliged to attend the performances.

The tickets were reportedly paid for by the financial administration departments at the factories. Because the factories acquired the necessary funds for ticket purchases by taking them out of the wages of its workers, the workers were effectively forced to pay for the tickets regardless of whether they wanted to or not.

Tickets for the second and third mass gymnastics shows in particular were distributed to military universities, military schools and other military educational institutions. Students in these institutions were required to attend the performances, the sources reported. 

“North Korean authorities strictly regulate entry into Pyongyang, so it could not have been an easy decision to include North Koreans from outside the capital city,” one source explained. “All in all, it seems like the authorities used both Pyongyang residents and institutions affiliated with the military to make up for the loss in profits.” 


The students involved in the mass gymnastics shows were also burdened by the fact that the performances continued longer than normal. 

“Normally the performances would have ended on Oct. 15, and the students involved in the card stunts should have been able to return to classes,” one of the sources said. “Ultimately, they had to be in the performances for an additional month.”

Sources suggested that the students’ “right to education” was essentially sacrificed so that the authorities could raise extra funds. 

Students were also disappointed that an anticipated event involving North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was cancelled. The students scheduled to graduate next year (March) were especially disappointed, as they had missed the opportunity to take commemorative photographs with Kim Jong Un. 

“From the perspective of the students, it must have felt like all their efforts over the past year was for nothing,” one of the sources said. “I expect there are definitely students who are frustrated because they worked themselves to the bone without any real reward.”

*Translated by Violet Kim

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Jeong Tae Joo is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. He focuses on North Korean military matters. Please direct any questions about his articles to