A shirtless guy, surrounded by charging troops, deflects two spinning kicks at a time, flinging his opponents over his shoulder. Afterward, he tenses up, and the soldiers beat him with their rods. He screams his displeasure.
On the sidelines, Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un cheered and smiled, indicating his approbation of the performance. The approximately one hundred uniformed officials who surround him cheer nonstop.
As reported by state media KCNA, the staged fight was part of a defense development exhibition held in Pyongyang on Monday. The exhibition was intended to demonstrate the ruling party's strength and included flight stunts by combat pilots, a weapons display, and a series of daring martial feats by the North Korean army.
A state program that aired Tuesday showed soldiers at the display screaming war cries as they barreled through concrete slabs, split brick rows in two with their elbows, and performed running dropkicks.
According to a video of the program, which was shared on Twitter by Martyn Williams, a Stimson Center fellow who specializes in North Korean affairs, the troops are seen moving beyond martial arts to do actions such as bending a metal rod with their necks.
Several of the guys, all of whom are shirtless, place their arms over what seems to be a stack of tiles and have their biceps and hands pounded with sledgehammers, causing the tiles beneath them to break apart. They appear to be uninjured thereafter, as they strike fighting positions.
One man is forced to lie down on a bed of nails before having a concrete block placed on his stomach and pounded into half. Another has swords put on his belly, which is then subjected to the same block-and-sledgehammer procedure as the previous.
An unidentified guy shatters two bottles over a blanket of glass fragments, then lays down on top of the broken bottles in the video's concluding portion. He, too, has a concrete block crushed into his lower abs and rib cage.
Meanwhile, a continual stream of combat screams can be heard, but it is unclear if these were put in for the state broadcast or whether they were actually made by the men participating in the battle. According to the BBC, this is the first time such an event has taken place since Kim seized control in 2011.
At the exhibition, dictator Kim accused the United States of igniting hostilities and escalating tensions, while asserting that North Korea is simply seeking to defend its own interests.
State media reported that Kim made the remarks during the exhibition, dubbed "Self-Defense 2021," which was held in Pyongyang's capital. "The United States has repeatedly signaled that it is not hostile to our state, but its actions provide us with no reason why we should believe in them," Kim said during the exhibition.
According to the Seoul-based analytical website NKNews, the government also displayed its nuclear weapons and intercontinental range ballistics, including a new hypersonic missile.
During this time, users on social media have been making fun of a parachutist who is dressed in a skin-tight blue suit and standing among pilots at the display, referring to him as "Captain North Korea" or "human cannonball."