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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un oversaw a huge parade of citizens on the 110th birthday of Kim Il-sung, his grandfather and founder of the country, according to footage released by state media on Saturday.
Kim Il-sung was born on April 15, 1912. On the 110th anniversary of his birth, North Korea honored him with a citizens’ parade and fireworks on Friday. South Korean and American officials had estimated that a nuclear test could take place as part of these celebrations. They also expected a military parade.
April 15, the “Day of the Sun” in North Korea, is one of the most important dates in Pyongyang’s calendar. Photos from the official KCNA news agency show Kim Jong-un, grandson of Kim Il-sung, waving from a balcony in Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang to thousands of colorfully dressed people.
“Columns of workers, peasant dancers and other people marched through the square,” waving banners bearing socialist slogans, KCNA said. The leader also visited the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang, which houses the embalmed remains of his father, Kim Jong-il, as well as that of Kim Il-sung.
In the days leading up to the anniversary, state media extensively covered the inauguration of new building complexes and showed images of wreaths photographed by people with smartphones.
For Leif-Eric Easley, associate professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, the aim was to “portray an economy that is not only resilient but growing”. The country is however in the grip of a serious economic crisis, aggravated by international sanctions and the strict closure of its borders to protect itself from Covid-19. “The Kim regime needs other sources of national pride and legitimacy than military parades,” he said.
These commemorations came three weeks after the largest intercontinental ballistic missile test in the country’s history. It is the first time that Kim Jong-un’s most powerful weapons have been fired at full range since 2017, breaking a moratorium observed until then.
The absence of military activity on this anniversary “does not mean, however, that North Korea has ceased to strengthen its military posture”, added Leif-Eric Easley. Satellite images showed signs of activity in a tunnel at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site that North Korea claimed it dismantled in 2018 ahead of a summit between Kim Jong-un and the then US president , Donald Trump.