North Korea’s mass gymnastics performances to resume after five years

The Beijing-based travel company Koryo Tours is advertising tour packages for North Korea’s new mass gymnastics performance. / Image = Koryo Tours website

On September 9, which marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the North Korean regime, North Korea’s mass gymnastics performances are resuming for the first time in five years. Travel packages are being offered for the event, with some costing up to five million KRW.

Koryo Tours, a North Korean travel agency based in Beijing, posted on its website on June 18, “North Korea’s mass gymnastics will be back in September after five years,” and “Our colleagues (North Korean organizers) confirmed that the mass gymnastics will be held in Pyongyang from September 9 to 30.”

Last April, Koryo Tours revealed that the title of the new mass gymnastics performance was “Brilliant Fatherland.”

According to Koryo Tours’ website, the most expensive package, the 21-night program, is priced at 3,999 euros (approximately 5,150,000 KRW). Ticket prices for the event itself start from 80 euros (approximately 103,000 KRW).

“Two of the travel packages for the performance have already been fully booked,” the Koryo Tours website states.

North Korea’s Arirang Mass Games group gymnastics performances were suspended after the 2013 event, but plans were made for them to resume this year to honor the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the North Korean regime.

Kim Jong Un announced plans through this year’s New Year’s Address to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the nation as a ‘grand occasion.’ The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the Workers’ Party of Korea, has also been publishing articles with the headline ‘Heading towards September’s Grand Celebration’ since May and is attempting to create an atmosphere of celebration for the founding of North Korea.

North Korea’s Arirang Mass Games. / Image=Yonhap News Agency

In the past, North Korean gymnastics performances were held to promote loyalty for the regime.

The Arirang Mass Games, North Korea’s existing mass gymnastics performance, were hosted for the first time in 2002 in honor of Kim Il Sung’s 90th birthday and resumed in 2005. They continued until 2013, with the exception of 2006 when the event was canceled due to floods.

Meanwhile, some have pointed out that certain aspects of how the Arirang Mass Games are run constitute serious human rights violations, with many tourists being apparently unaware of this detail.

A report by published in 2014 by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (COI) criticized the Mass Games stating, “They (Mass Games) attract large numbers of tourists, who are often unaware of the human rights violations endured by participating children, who are compelled to participate (unless their physical appearance does not meet the state-determined ideal).”

“Training will often last an entire year, including 4-6 months during which the participants train all day at the expense of their schooling. Training practice is gruelling. Children who do not perfect their performances are subjected to physical punishment and additional evening training,” the report states, going on to explain that this constitutes a violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

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