Lonely Planet Writer

North Korea’s biggest spectacle, the Mass Games, to be held again for the first time since 2013

One of the most astounding events on the Korean peninsula is reportedly to be held in 2018 after several years’ hiatus. The Mass Games – one of North Korea’s most spectacular annual events, will be held this year for the first time since 2013. The artistic and sporting festival includes a huge performance of choreography, dance and acrobatics that has been noted in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest event of its kind on earth.

The Mass Games performed live in Pyongyang city of North Korea. Image by Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Mass Games were held regularly from 2007-2013, but were cancelled in the intervening years. Koryo Tours, the most trusted travel agency organising tours to North Korea, reported on 16 March that the Mass Games were purportedly going to be held again this year for the first time in five years.

North Korean army veterans watch an ‘Arrirang Festival mass games display’ at the 150,000-seat Rungnado May Day Stadiumin Pyongyang on July 26, 2013. Image by Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

The agency said in a press release, “We’re hearing word from multiple and different sources within the DPRK that the Mass Games will return in 2018! The specifics aren’t entirely clear yet.” According to the release, 9 September, 2018 is a likely date for the Mass Games to be held, as this marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). Details of the event have yet to be confirmed, but Koryo Tours says they are confident the games should go ahead based on information “from our people in the know in Pyongyang”.

Dancers perform during an ‘Arrirang Festival mass games display’ at the 150,000-seat Rungnado May Day Stadiumin Pyongyang on July 26, 2013. Image by ED JONES/Getty Images

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against all but essential travel to North Korea, and currently American citizens cannot visit the country due a travel ban placed by the US Department of State in September 2017. Please check with your relevant national government before planning any travel to North Korea.

The Mass Games are essentially a performance of children as young as five years old. Lonely Planet makes no claim that these children are being mistreated, but wants to encourage visitors to North Korea to think through these issues and be aware of their contentious nature before attending such events.