From North Korea With Love: Reviewing Pyongyang’s Arirang Mass Games
Keywords:Arirang Mass Games, North Korea, performance, ideology, enactment, materialization, embodiment, embodied experience
This review of North Korea’s Airirang Mass Games presents a primary account and analysis of a performance unlike anything and unseen anywhere else in the contemporary world. This review contributes to the beginning of a conversation about this performance that has been nearly inaccessible and unavailable to most people, including most other academic researchers or commentators, outside of North Korea. It is arranged into a first-hand descriptive account and then an analysis of the Arirang Mass Games.
This review analyses the Arirang Mass Games through a discussion of the materialization, enactment, and embodiment of the regime’s ethnocentric Communist ideology and culture. This analysis draws upon the work of performance philosophers and the work of other scholars and journalists, who have either analyzed and/or also attended the games, to start connecting the ways in which this performance can be regarded as the material embodiment of North Korean culture, national identity, and ideology, or at least the regime’s construction and fantasy of these aspects of the country.
This review does not aim to provide justifications for or intend to give support to the North Korean government. Its purpose instead is twofold: first, to help shed light on a spectacular performance that few people outside of North Korea have experienced in such a little known or little understood country; and second, to present a perspective on repetition established in such an isolated and mysterious place, at least compared to the relative openness of most other countries, that few other individuals have personally experienced.
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