N.Korea to close curtain on huge festival: company

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North Korea is bringing down the curtain on its annual Arirang Mass Games which involve tens of thousands of performers, to meet the changing times, a Beijing-based tour company said Tuesday.

The extravaganza involves performers including children performing synchronised acrobatics, dances and flip-card displays of politicised messages.

"It's believed this year's Arirang will be the last one," Simon Cockerell, general manager of Koryo Tours, told AFP by phone.

He said Pyongyang has decided to end the show because its theme is the 100 years since the birth of the country's late founder Kim Il-Sung, and the centenary anniversary was this year.

"The performance is about the 100 years, which North Korea sees as the modern years. That ends now. So we expect them to put on a new or different performance next year," Cockerell said.

While mass games have been performed since the 1940s in the communist state, the Arirang show is the largest and most impressive the North has ever produced, says the company, which specialises in tours to North Korea.

It began in 2002 and has been an annual event since 2007.

But now "our Korean partners suggest that the narrative needs to change with the times", Koryo Tours said on its website on Monday.

The show chronicles what the North sees as the struggles of the Korean people under Japanese occupation, moving into the independent era and the building of a modern country.

Next year marks the 65th anniversary of the North's foundation and the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice. Organisers are reportedly planning a "whole new performance for next year", the company said.

This year's Arirang festival is from August 1 to September 9.

Hundreds of thousands of locals and thousands of Chinese tourists visit the festival but it usually draws only a small number of Westerners, Cockerell said.

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