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

With a total population of about 20 million, the DPRK is a highly regimented society that lives and dies by a "military first" policy. Its standing army is 1.1 million strong with reserve forces of six million. The merciless razing of the north’s cities by American bombers during the Korean War left deep scars on the local psyche. At one point in A State of Mind, gymnast Pak visits the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum and asks her grandfather whether a shot-down US aircraft on display once dropped bombs on Pyongyang. He replies, "No, but it dropped all kinds of insects containing the virus of various plagues."

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