The Boston Phoenix’s Web site features a captivating photo essay on the Mass Games, North Korea’s creepy annual homegrown take on the Olympics (less swimming, more joyless dancing). The Mass Games are “state ideology set to music, says photographer Michael Gao, who also calls them “the most surreal sight in the most bizarre nation on the planet.” After viewing his photographs, I’m not inclined to disagree.

Photo credit Michael Gao, Boston Phoenix

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Justin Peters is editor-at-large of the Columbia Journalism Review.