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The Arirang Mass Games in North Korea by Eric Lafforgue: 28 Extraordinary Pictures

Themed Collections

27 February 2018

Posted by Philip Mowbray

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.

Further reading:

Behind the spectacle, the ugly truth behind North Korea's 'mass games'
Interesting facts about the Arirang Festival


North Korean flag made by human pixels holding up colored boards during Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea

North Korean flag made by human pixels holding up colored boards during Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea Read less

by Eric Lafforgue

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Kim il Sung pistol made by children pixels holding up colored boards during Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea

Kim il Sung pistol made by children pixels holding up colored boards during Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea Read less

by Eric Lafforgue

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North Korean kids using a computer made by children holding up colored boards during Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea

North Korean kids using a computer made by children holding up colored boards during Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea Read less

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North Korean pupil with a pen made by human pixels holding up colored boards during Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea

North Korean pupil with a pen made by human pixels holding up colored boards during Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea Read less

by Eric Lafforgue

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North Korean dancers in front of a sky of fire made by children pixels holding up colored boards during Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North... Read more

North Korean dancers in front of a sky of fire made by children pixels holding up colored boards during Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea Read less

by Eric Lafforgue

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North Korean gymnasts in front of a human fresco during the Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea

North Korean gymnasts in front of a human fresco during the Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea Read less

by Eric Lafforgue

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North Korean dancers performing in front of Kim Jong il native house during Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea

North Korean dancers performing in front of Kim Jong il native house during Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea Read less

by Eric Lafforgue

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North Korean gymnasts performing during Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea

North Korean gymnasts performing during Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea Read less

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North Korean gymnasts performing during the Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea

North Korean gymnasts performing during the Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea Read less

by Eric Lafforgue

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Panoramic view of the Arirang mass games with North Korean performers in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea

Panoramic view of the Arirang mass games with North Korean performers in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea Read less

by Eric Lafforgue

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North Korean women dancing in choson-ot during the Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea

North Korean women dancing in choson-ot during the Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea Read less

by Eric Lafforgue

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North Korean gymnasts performing during the Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea

North Korean gymnasts performing during the Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea Read less

by Eric Lafforgue

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North Korean gymnasts performing during Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea

North Korean gymnasts performing during Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea Read less

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Workers' Party of North Korea giant flag during the Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea

Workers' Party of North Korea giant flag during the Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea Read less

by Eric Lafforgue

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North Korean women dancing in choson-ot during the Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea

North Korean women dancing in choson-ot during the Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea Read less

by Eric Lafforgue

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Arch of triumph made by children pixels holding up colored boards during Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea

Arch of triumph made by children pixels holding up colored boards during Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea Read less

by Eric Lafforgue

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Kim il Sung portrait made by children pixels holding up colored boards during Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea

Kim il Sung portrait made by children pixels holding up colored boards during Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea Read less

by Eric Lafforgue

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North Korean dancers in front of rising sun over mount Paektu made by children holding up boards during Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North... Read more

North Korean dancers in front of rising sun over mount Paektu made by children holding up boards during Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea Read less

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North Korean taekwondo team in front of a giant flag during the Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea

North Korean taekwondo team in front of a giant flag during the Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea Read less

by Eric Lafforgue

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Chollima horses made by children pixels holding up colored boards during Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea

Chollima horses made by children pixels holding up colored boards during Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea Read less

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North Korean man cossing the sky during the Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea

North Korean man cossing the sky during the Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea Read less

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North Korean military battle during the Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea

North Korean military battle during the Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea Read less

by Eric Lafforgue

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North Korean women dancing in choson-ot during the Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea

North Korean women dancing in choson-ot during the Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea Read less

by Eric Lafforgue

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Giant pig dummy during the Arirang mass game in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea

Giant pig dummy during the Arirang mass game in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea Read less

by Eric Lafforgue

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North Korean woman dressed as soldier during the Arirang mass games at may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea

North Korean woman dressed as soldier during the Arirang mass games at may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea Read less

by Eric Lafforgue

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North Korean women dancing in choson-ot during the Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea

North Korean women dancing in choson-ot during the Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea Read less

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North Korean women dancing with ribbons during the Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea

North Korean women dancing with ribbons during the Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea Read less

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North Korean women dancing in choson-ot during the Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea

North Korean women dancing in choson-ot during the Arirang mass games in may day stadium, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea Read less

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