North Korea suspended its massive, over-the-top annual propaganda celebration after Kim Jong Un said it wasn't good enough this year

north korea mass crowd gamesWikimedia Commons

  • North Korea suspended its glitzy, months-long propaganda festival on Wednesday because Kim Jong Un didn't like the opening performance.
  • The country's Mass Games opened this Monday and was set to run until October. It typically features 100,000 citizens performing synchronized gymnastic routines in line with North Korean propaganda.
  • But on Wednesday two tour operators announced the show would be paused from June 10 because Kim wasn't happy with it.
  • State-run media reported earlier this week that Kim told the event's organizers the performances showed the "wrong spirit of creation and irresponsible work attitude," according to Reuters.
  • It's not entirely clear what specifically he did not like about the performances.
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North Korea says it's pausing its months-long, over-the-top propaganda festival three days into the ceremony, because leader Kim Jong Un said it wasn't up to scratch.

The Mass Games is a gigantic gymnastics performance held at Pyongyang's Rungrado May Day Stadium every year. It features some 100,000 people performing synchronized dances, marches, and aerobics. (Kim Jong Il, the father and predecessor of Kim Jong Un, said in 1987 that the group performances underline the importance of communism.)

This year's ceremony - themed "The Land of the People" - had been scheduled to take place from June to October.

But on Wednesday Young Pioneer Tours and Koryo Tours - two Beijing-based travel agencies that organize tours to North Korea - confirmed that the show would be suspended from June 10 onward, citing Kim's dissatisfaction.

North Koreans perform in a 'Mass Games' gymnastic and artistic display at the May Day Stadium on October 18, 2018 in Pyongyang, North Korea.North Koreans perform in a 'Mass Games' gymnastic and artistic display at the May Day Stadium on October 18, 2018 in Pyongyang, North Korea.Getty

It's not clear what Kim disliked about this year's performance.

According to North Korea's state-run KCNA news agency, cited by Reuters, Kim had called up the organizers after Monday's opening ceremony and "seriously criticized" them for their "wrong spirit of creation and irresponsible work attitude."

Kim also gave the event organizers "important tasks" to rectify their mistakes, KCNA said.

"Noting that the creators and artistes in the literature and art sector have a very important duty in socialist cultural construction, he set forth important tasks for correctly implementing the revolutionary policy of our Party on literature and art," KCNA said, according to Reuters.

The news agency did not specify what those tasks were.

Read more: 16 pictures show North Korea's grand performance at the 2018 Mass Games

2019 mass games north koreaThe 2019 Mass Games in Pyongyang.KCNA

Simon Cockerell, the general manager at Koryo Tours, told Reuters: "No ideas what part he didn't like about it," adding that the agency "had people there for both nights it has run so far and they very much enjoyed it."

Minyoung Lee, an analyst at NK Pro, also told the BBC that Kim often publicly criticizes public departments and work performance, which in the past has included poor tree-planting.

Earlier this year Kim also called for a more "novel" approach to the country's propaganda, which resulted in state media increasing its propaganda and calls against the "bourgeoisie ways of life" and "non-socialist phenomena," the BBC cited Lee as saying.

North Korea's state-controlled news channel, KCTV, also underwent a dramatic makeover last year, replacing longterm anchor Ri Chun Hee - also known as the "Pink Lady" - with younger reporters.

Kim Jong UnNorth Korea leader Kim Jong Un inspects Chunghung farm in Samjiyon County.KCNA/Reuters

After Monday's opening ceremony KCNA had described the show as being full of "beautiful and graceful rhythmic movements, high-spirited gymnastics, interesting national emotion and rich artistic depiction."

The news agency on Wednesday also posted a four-minute video of spectators clapping and celebrating at Monday's ceremony.

Among the applauders was Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un's sister, who analysts previously speculated had fallen out of favor with Kim after she wasn't seen in public for more than 50 days.

Read more: Kim Jong Un's mysterious sister, who helps him govern but was rumored to have fallen from favor, just appeared next to him at a major event

Critics of the Mass Games say the event ignores North Korea's human rights controversies. Daily NK, a news site run by North Korean defectors, has also reported on schoolchildren undergoing months of strict training for their performances.

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