North Korea confirms return of mass games… but what are they, and why?

mass games

As you may have heard, North Korea’s mass games are making a return for 2019 — but what are they and how did they come into being?

Mass games are not actually games, but rather an unfathomably huge gymnastics performance involving tens of thousands of performers. 

In its latest incarnation it is officially known as the Grand Mass Gymnastics and Artistic Performance Glorious Fatherland. It is held at the world’s largest stadium, the May Day Stadium in Pyongyang.

The spectacular event has its origins in Soviet times, when the Russians felt that they needed an alternative to the “capitalist” Olympics. So in 1928 they came up with the Spartakiad, named after the rebel slave Spartacus.

Between 1928 and 1937 there were 10 Spartakiad’s before the countdown to World War Two began and people had other things on their mind. 

After the war, many of the countries that found themselves behind the Iron Curtain began to hold their own Spartakiads. There are some great clips of mass games happening in Albania under Hoxha, and Romania under Ceausescu (check them out on YouTube).

mass games

After the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was founded they also held Spartakiad-type events before putting their own spin on things in 1961 with “The Era of the Workers Party”. Since then there’s been more than 100 variations under different titles until we get to 2002 and the launch of the most famous, known as Arirang.

Arirang is a famous folk song in Korean, and could be considered the unofficial anthem of both Koreas. 

The Arirang Festival lasted until 2013, when a five-year hiatus began. 

Last year, it was announced that the Grand Mass Gymnastics and Artistic Performance were back and would now be titled Glorious Fatherland — or “Glorious Country” depending on your translation. 

Whatever your views of the Kim regime in North Korea, it was undeniably one of the greatest shows in the world.

Nobody was sure if this would be a one-off, but this week it has been confirmed that the Glorious Fatherland Mass Games performance will be returning for 2019.

Want to experience this unique event? Speak to our friends at Young Pioneer Tours to find out more.