During the 1970s and 1980s, the communist government in Pyongyang sent Mass Games instructors to the Third World in order to improve the image of North Korea abroad and promote its version of socialist modernity. The Mass Games, a huge choreographic gymnastics event of 100,000 performers, artistically exhibited the North Korean idea of "ilsim-dangyeol (single-minded unity).” In the era of decolonization, postcolonial leaders in the emerging Third World turned to East Asia for developmental inspirations and some leaders, notably Idi Amin of Uganda, admired the North Korean model of collectivism and discipline. The Mass Games, epitomized the communalistic values of North Korean political culture, and Pyongyang soon spread the exercises all over Africa via the exportation of instructors. Using U.S diplomatic reports, South Korean archival documents, and North Korean press reports, this article argues that the dissemination of the North Korean Mass Games to the Third World circulated ideas of self-reliance, national harmony, and patriotism but also introduced Pyongyang’s mechanisms of social control, such as state-run cultural performances and involuntary mass participation in artistic events.
Benjamin R. Young, "Cultural Diplomacy with North Korean Characteristics: Pyongyang’s Exportation of the Mass Games to the Third World, 1972–1996," The International History Review, Vol. 42, No. 3 (June 2020): 543-555.