The Greatest Show on Earth

August 16th, 2011 by Calvin Sun

As I said in the last entry, this is the greatest show on earth. Not only does it hold the Guinness Book of World Records title for world’s largest show, but it is also performed in the world’s largest stadium and features 100,000 performers who have all committed their lives to Arirang. Performers are recruited as early as 5 years old.

In comparison, the already impressive Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremony featured a “mere” 15,000 performers. So think of Arirang as the Beijing 2008 Olympics Opening Ceremony on acid/crack/steroids/[insert stimulant drug of choice here].

The shows began in 2002, and only since 2008 has it allowed foreign tourists to attend. Consider yourself one of the lucky .0001% of the foreign world if you ever have the privilege of seeing this with your own bare eyes. Only a few hundred non-Chinese foreigners are allowed to see Arirang each year.



The world’s largest stadium


Got my golden ticket for 80 euros!


Outdoor commotion


Approaching the entrance.




100,000 performers assemble in formation

The performance begins with a rousing rally seemingly meant to intimidate: the famous North Korean card stunt performed by 30,000 highly disciplined schoolchildren holding colored cards. Crazy. Ridiculous. and again: Intimidating.




A closer look


In the middle of a card change.

We begin with the first act:


The rising sun is meant to symbolize Kim Il-Sung, the Eternal President of North Korea:



Ridiculous choreography with red flags:





We then enter the winter portion of the act, which usually represents difficult times for North Korea. For me it was when everything was blue and beautiful:



Winter blues


Little kids join the fray. No age is too young to be apart of Arirang:




  Afterwards, the older, more experienced gymnasts take the stage:



We head into the bizarre animal kingdom act:


Then the older, creme de la creme of the gymnasts arrive:






It’s winter again. The warm house is North Korea, of course.


One of the few moments of the show where the act focuses on a single person.


An act on the DRPK’s support for North Korea & South Korea reunification.


And then an act on China & North Korea being BFFs

  And finally, the final act:




And the most curious photo I took of Arirang was of this:


30,000 schoolchildren from ages 5-13 holding up cards to create a picture of a nuclear explosion. I wonder then, what stance are they taking on nuclear power?

So there you have it, my best photos and videos I took of Arirang. There are hundreds more, but you can take your leisure with them on my photo album and see the rest. If you’re still not convinced, then I’d say you have high standards. Or that you come from another planet.

- At time of posting in New York City, Central Park, it was 68 °F -

Humidity: 92% | Wind Speed: n/a | Cloud Cover: cloudy

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5 Responses to “The Greatest Show on Earth”

  1. Syeda Wahid says:

    Wow, these pictures are beyond amazing. I came to your site after listening to one of your inspirational speeches at at AAA Conference @ Columbia. (My card was Iran, so that was one of the first adventures I read about!) I’ve never heard about this before; actually, I wasn’t aware that North Korea could even have all of these grand buildings. Good points about supposedly crazed, nuclear-hungry countries are fairly hard to come by. I guess the quote on your website about travel banishing all that your parents and teachers taught you is true!

  2. [...] London), the opposite isn’t as true. If only a few hundred foreign tourists are allowed to seeArirang each year, even fewer get the “privilege” of visiting the De-Militarized [...]

  3. Krish says:

    Absolutely love your photos..

  4. [...] the opposite isn’t as true. If only a few hundred foreign tourists are allowed to see Arirang each year, even fewer get the “privilege” of visiting the De-Militarized [...]

  5. Mandy says:

    This is truly mind-blowing! Your photos are beautiful. I’ve loved reading along to your North Korean entries since I found your blog not long ago. I’ll have to catch up with the rest of your adventures!

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