Those lucky enough to visit North Korea on the much-coveted tours that take place during late August and early September can bear witness to the out-of-this-world spectacle that is the Arirang Mass Games.
The Arirang Mass Games, also known as the Arirang Festival takes place in the Rungnado Stadium in Pyongyang over seven days. The Festival is comprised of three elements; gymnastics, performances with music and choreographed routines and ‘backdrops’ - where tens-of-thousands of participants hold coloured cards to intricately create images of immense size. The Arirang Festival also features in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest gymnastics performance in the world: undoubtedly one of the most extravagant shows on Earth.
The games are centred around the story of Arirang: a Korean folktale about a young couple who are separated by forces of evil, which serves as a metaphor for present-day divided Korea. Also (and in true North Korean fashion), the games have a propaganda-bent to them, heavily featuring the ideology of the Worker’s Party of Korea and the North Korean rulers.
The North Korean nation is well-known for its secrecy, however, the Arirang Mass Games is one of the only events in the North Korean calendar where foreigners are welcome. Picfair photographer, Eric Lafforgue has spent an extensive amount of time travelling around the country, and within his collection of images is an exceptional series of photographs documenting the Arirang Festival. And to further showcase Eric's extraordinary portfolio of work on North Korea, we've selected 28 of the most extraordinary images in the collection below.