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August 12, 2009

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North Koreans witness lavish event as 'Mass Games' open

SOME 100,000 performers flipped and twirled in perfect synchronicity as North Korea's most lavish spectacle, the "Mass Games," opened in Pyongyang, footage from television news agency APTN showed.

The "Arirang" show features a huge cast - mostly children - dancing, singing and tumbling in unison.

It is also one of the few times average Americans, typically prohibited from visiting the country, are allowed visas to visit.

Named after a traditional Korean love song, the festival started on Monday and will continue until October. It also was shown in 2002, 2005, 2007 and last year.

This year's show is focused on North Korea's goal of achieving prosperity by 2012, the 100th anniversary of the birth of its former leader, the late Kim Il Sung.

The show's debut at Pyongyang's May Day Stadium promoted the country's key ideology of "self-reliance" and was set against the backdrop of slogans calling for a "great, prosperous and powerful nation" by 2012.

North Korea has launched a national economic development drive ahead of the anniversary and is in the midst of a "150-day battle" to increase industrial output.

North Korean soldiers, foreign diplomats and the heads of international organizations were in the audience on Monday, its official Korean Central News Agency reported.

"It was really breathtaking. I have never seen something similar in the rest of world," German tourist Albrecht Thomas said.

North Korea has honed the technique of having performers hold flashcards that they flip in unison to create a sea of images and slogans.

In 2000, Kim Jong Il took visiting United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to a performance that was a precursor to the "Arirang" show.


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