Behind the scenes of a North Korean art performance
Global Times


The background of the large calisthenics and art performance in Pyongyang displays a slogan in both Chinese and English. (Photo: Global Times)

With grand, magnificent, uniform scenes and a wide repertoire, North Korea's large calisthenics and art performances have become a standard of the country, as well as a must-see for tourists in North Korea.

On the evening of June 20, accompanied by the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his wife Ri Sol-ju, Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan watched a large calisthenics and art performance titled "Socialist Our Homeland." The performance has attracted the attention of Chinese media.

Chinese elements

On June 20, a reporter with the Global Times watched the adapted, large calisthenics and art performance, "People's Country," at the umbrella-shaped May Day Stadium on the Neungnado island of Pyongyang, capital city of North Korea.

A group of drones flew above the stadium when the evening began, opening the show by displaying the pattern of the North Korean national flag and characters spelling out "People's Country" in Korean.

During the nearly 2-hour performance, more than 10,000 North Korean performers reenacted the history of North Korea through various forms, showing scenes of the North Korean revolution, politics and army construction, economic development, the improvement of people's livelihood and overseas exchanges.

The performance included North Korean folk songs, Western music, traditional dance, modern dance and army dance with various musical instruments accompanying.

Performers playing North Korean soldiers split wood plates with their palms and combat skills, and won waves of applause.

The background platform comprising more than 17,000 students was another highlight of the show. Most were middle school students in Pyongyang. They displayed more than 100 patterns with boards.

"People's Country" also has a lot of Chinese elements. In its last chapter revolving around international friendship, performers sing the song "Love My China" in Chinese, accompanied by dancers dressed in clothes from China's 56 Chinese ethnic groups. Dragon and lion dances were staged. The background screen flashed Chinese slogans, including "Solidarity, Cooperation, Good Neighbourliness, Friendship."

This reporter saw that many of the people enjoying the show were from China and some were from Western countries. The show costs between $100 and $800.

Less than 10 days of preparation

Before the performance, the Global Times interviewed the creative team of the People's Country mass games, which consists of five people including director, writer and dance director.

The team had also created a show titled "Invincible Socialism," which Chinese President Xi Jinping and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un watched during Xi's visit to North Korea in June.

The team told the Global Times they are interested in China's feedback from the performance. They had received their task 10 days before showtime.

The writer of "Invincible Socialism" was awarded with the Kim Il-sung Prize. He said that the creators and performers finished the task within 10 days with more than 50,000 people involved. "It is a miracle!"

The director of the games said that the name "Invincible Socialism" was conceived by Kim Jong-un. It means that no matter how the environment changes, the China-North Korea friendship is unshakable. Kim wanted to show this friendship to the world through the performance and had directed the mass games three times.

"Each action, each tone, as well as the costumes, were chosen by our supreme leader. He directed us to pick the Chinese song, 'Flying Red Flag,'" the director said.

North Korea has a long history of mass games. As early as 1961, the country held its first mass games and art performance, the "Time of the Workers' Party of Korea."

In 2002, to mark the 90th anniversary of Kim Il-sung's birth and the 60th anniversary of Kim Jong-il's birth, the country created Arirang, a mass games performed by more than 100,000 people. It was rearranged in 2007 and took the Guinness World Record for the most performers in the world in one event. Arirang was onstage until 2013.

In 2018, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of North Korea's founding, the country created a mass games titled "Glorious Mother Country," showcasing North Korea's achievements in different fields over 70 years.