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What exactly are the Mass Games?

The Mass Games are a form of mass gymnastics in which thousands of performers stage a grand, synchronized show. The most well known North Korean example of mass gymnastics were the Arirang Mass Games, which were famous simply for its sheer size. It was listed in the Guinness Book of Records for being the biggest of its kind. Although mass gymnastics are no longer practised outside of North Korea, they were once a much more common occurrence, especially in the Socialist world. The Mass Games are an art form in North Korea, developed over decades, which can involve up to 100,000 performers in a 90-minute spectacular display of synchronised gymnastics, dance, acrobatics and dramatic performance. Think the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games - but on a much larger scale. The Mass Games returned in 2018 after a five-year hiatus.

Will there be a military parade?

In September 2018 there was a military parade to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). Military parades are held a lot less frequently than people think; less than once a year and only on major anniversaries. Up until 2012, western tourists were not allowed to attend the military parades but we managed to get special access to the one held on the occasion of Kim Il Sung’s 100th birthday (15th April 2012) – not in Kim Il Sung Square itself but we watched as it passed through the streets joining the locals as they cheered on the tanks! We were also able to see the same thing on Victory Day 2013, so we hope that this remains an option for future parades although there are no guarantees.

Are there any other special events tourists can attend?

We do get access to celebratory events such as Mass Dancing in public spaces. We cannot guarantee what celebrations will take place on a national holiday until quite close to the date and in some cases only on the day. Mass dances usually take place on national holidays but no advance notice is given. However, the guides will be able to find out when and where they are happening on the day itself. Please contact us and we can update you with what activities are expected. May Day (workers' day off) is often a great time to attend festive celebrations with the people (team games such as tug of war competitions in the park) and mid-April is the Pyongyang festival for Peace and Friendship where entertainers from around the world (mainly the socialist countries) come and perform. There is also the Pyongyang Film Festival held once every two years in September. We always manage to attend the best event that it is possible to attend on festival days.