Biggest-ever foreign turnout expected for North Korea mass games

Story highlights

  • Arirang Festival began Monday at Pyongyang's May Day Stadium; runs until September 9
  • Record number of foreigners expected to attend
  • 90-minute spectacle featuring 120,000 gymnasts will be repeated throughout festival
Acrobats, dancers and singers -- under normal circumstances, a festival featuring such tried and true attractions might not send you rushing to the Internet to book travel.
But when more than 120,000 gymnasts gather in one of the world's most secretive nations to perform a highly synchronized, 90-minute spectacle of song, dance and Cold War-style propaganda, it's something worth looking into.
Massive state-sponsored entertainment is a big part of the lure of North Korea's annual Arirang Festival, or "mass games," and it's drawing foreign visitors in increasing numbers.
The Arirang Festival began Monday at Pyongyang's May Day Stadium and will run until September 9.
The festival features four mass performances each week.
Its profile perhaps boosted by recent visits from Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt and professional bizarre human being Dennis Rodman, North Korea is gaining popularity as a travel destination; a record number of foreigners is expected to attend this year's festival.
"More people visiting is creating a snowball effect," says Troy Collings of Young Pioneer Tours, one of a handful of travel companies that organize visits to North Korea. "Most people think they can't go. As more people do go, the more word gets around, so people suddenly start seriously consideri