On Monday, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) launched its annual Arirang Festival. The festival—which lasts until September 9th—will include thousands of synchronized gymnasts and performers that collectively create large images at the May Day Stadium in Pyongyang. For many of the gymnasts, this will be their sole career till they retire.
This year, the focus of the event is on the 60th anniversary of the armistice that suspended hostilities in the 1950 Korean War. However, in North Korea, the Korean War is known as the “Fatherland Liberation War” and the armistice signing is referred to as “Victory Day.” Oddly enough, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad wished North Korea a happy anniversary on July 21st.
While current leader Kim Jong-un was not in attendance on Monday’s performance, there are an increasing number of international visitors that attend the event every year. According to a recent CNN report, more than 1000 Western tourists will attend the event, and travel agents are expecting at least of 30 percent increase in international tourists. The report also noted that, in general, the world’s only Communist dynasty is becoming more and more a travel destination.
In recent years, a China section has been implemented in the ceremony in order to celebrate the friendship between the two countries. Relations between Beijing and Pyongyang were allegedly strained earlier this year during North Korea’s posturing over its missile capabilities, but on the surface still appear to be cordial.
Over 120,000 performers praised the late Kim Il-sung and his son, the late Kim Jong-il. Other great war victors were also paid respect during the celebration. According to DPRK state press, “The extravaganza was a perfect combination of music and dances rich in national flavor and excellent in the content and form like artistic skill, dynamic gymnastics and acrobatics, ever-changing background, gorgeous stage decor, electric settings, lighting, etc. It was highly acclaimed by the audience.”
Video of the 2012 Arirang Festival by Gabriel Prehn Britto.