Photos: North Korea's surreal Mass Games

While everyone else watches the Olympics, Asia's weirdest sporting event transpires in the world's most secretive country
By MICHAEL GAO  |  September 8, 2008

Photo by Michael Gao

In 2002, the theme of the Mass Games, which traditionally changed every year, was Arirang, a Korean folk tale that tells of two separated young lovers and their quest to be reunited. It is something of an Asian Romeo & Juliet story that could be interpreted as a metaphor for the plight of the two Koreas. Four million North Koreans relished 90 shows presented over four months in 2002. The Dear Leader was impressed, and declared that Arirang should be a regular theme. But repetition of the program in recent years has resulted in falling attendances. DPRK citizens pay 100 Won (official exchange rate: 165 Won to US$1. According to purchasing power, one dollar is roughly the same as 3,000 Won) for each 90-minute show. Visitors from other countries pay 50-300 Euros or the equivalent in Chinese currency.

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