Cash-short North Korea to stage mass games

Thu Jul 9, 2009 6:21am EDT
 
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SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea will stage its Arirang mass games from August, its state media said on Thursday, likely opening an avenue for foreign tourists and currency to flow into the state hit by U.N. sanctions for its May nuclear test.

Arirang, named after a Korean folk song, is the world's biggest choreographed extravaganza with as many as 100,000 participants, much of it homage to leader Kim Jong-il and his dead father, Kim Il-sung, who founded the communist dynasty.

It is part circus act, part rhythmic gymnastics and features dancing girls, goose-stepping soldiers and a massive flip-card animation section.

Hermit North Korea has opened the games over the past several years to foreign tourists who spend thousands of dollars each for mandatory package tours that include pricey hotel stays. It has even allowed in visitors from its main foe, the United States.

The games will be held from August 10 to late September, the North's KCNA news agency said.

"Arirang ... has demonstrated before the world the invincible might of 'Songun' (military-first) Korea in which the army and people are rallied close around leader Kim Jong-il," KCNA said.

The U.N. sanctions imposed after its May 25 nuclear were aimed at halting the North's arms trade, a vital source of hard currency for the country with a broken economy that produces little else it can export.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Nick Macfie)