North Korea’s famed Mass Games is being put on pause, according to tour groups that organize visits to the country, two days after Kim Jong Un was reported to have criticized the creators of this year’s performance.
The Games, a uniquely North Korean propaganda spectacle involving tens of thousands of performers, typically last for several months.
This year’s pageant, which premiered on Monday evening and was expected to run until October, will be suspended from June 10, said Simon Cockerell of Koryo Tours, a specialist travel company that helps Western tourists visit North Korea.
Cockerell told CNN that his company’s partners in Pyongyang had informed him on Wednesday that the Games would be suspended. It is unclear when the Games will resume.
North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that Kim attended the opening of the Games Monday alongside his wife and a coterie of top officials from the country – including Kim Yong Chol, the diplomat whose purported demise last week turned out to be untrue.
This year’s Games were called “The Land of the People.” Past performances have blended theater, artistry, gymnastics and thousands of people acting as human pixels flipping colorful cards to reveal images.
After the performance concluded, Kim spoke glowingly of the participants but “seriously criticized” the Games’ creators “for their wrong spirit of creation and irresponsible work attitude,” according to KCNA.
“Noting that the creators and artistes in the literature and art sector have a very important duty in socialist cultural construction, he (Kim Jong Un) set forth important tasks for correctly implementing the revolutionary policy of our Party on literature and art,” KCNA reported.
Young Pioneer Tours, another North Korea travel company, attributed the temporary suspension to Kim’s unhappiness with the event’s organizers.
“According to our sources, the Mass Games may be temporarily halted from June 10 due to Kim Jong Un dissatisfaction with the opening performance,” it said in a tweet.
The Games are a big draw for foreign tourists visiting the country. Tickets for foreign tourists are usually purchased the day of the event, Cockerell said.
The Mass Games resumed last year after a mysterious five-year hiatus with a performance called “Shining Fatherland,” the name of a patriotic song performed by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s favorite girl band, Moranbong.
Kim hosted South Korean President Moon Jae-in during a performance of “Shining Fatherland” during their summit in Pyongyang in September 2018.
That performance included images of Moon and Kim during their first summit in April of that year, but “The Land of the People” did not include those images.
CNN’s Yoonjung Seo contributed to this report