North Koreans perform during a mass gymnastic and artistic performance "Arirang", in Pyongyang, on July 26, 2013. The wall in the background is made up of cards held by individuals sitting in the stadium seats:
The Arirang Festival is the yearly kitsch extravaganza during which thousands of children parade, and dance, and turn themselves into living pixels in mass tableaux glorifying the Kim dynasty. It's perhaps North Korea's most successful effort at branding, with pictures like these ending up published round the globe, and tourists flocking to get tickets.
Jee Hae-bum at the Chosun Ilbo provides some background to the festival, which might make you want to reconsider your visit:
The "Arirang" mass calisthenics performance held every year requires the blood, sweat and tears of 20,000 North Korean children.
They practice a synchronized flash-card performance for six months, repeating their moves tens of thousands of times, and a single mistake can lead to brutal punishment. Injuries are common among children who take part when they fall while building human towers.
The young gymnasts are not allowed to drink water from a day before the show to prevent them from needing the bathroom during the performance. If they really need to go during the performance, they have to relieve themselves on the spot. The smell of stale urine pervades Rungrado May Day Stadium where the event is held.
The children are usually recruited from poor families in Pyongyang. Officials and other influential people scramble for sick passes or bribe the authorities to get their own children excused. Human rights activists cite the event as child abuse, but the regime views the event as great publicity and a chance to earn dollars from foreign spectators.