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100,000 N. Koreans rally in Pyongyang to back New Year plans: report

All Headlines 18:32 January 03, 2011

By Sam Kim

SEOUL, Jan. 3 (Yonhap) -- About 100,000 North Koreans gathered Monday in Pyongyang to show support for their country's economic push outlined in a New Year's message, holding high the portraits of their leader Kim Jong-il and his late father, the communist state's official media said.

The scene marks the latest in a series of mass rallies the North has organized nationwide since a joint press editorial on Jan 1. called for the revival of light industries ahead of a landmark year.

North Korea has designated 2012 as a moment in its history to rise as a "powerful, great and prosperous country." The year marks the centennial birthday of Kim Jong-il's father, Kim Il-sung, and analysts say the regime appears to be trying to improve people's living standards in a bid to create a mood favorable for its second hereditary power succession underway in Pyongyang.

"Slogan boards were set up at the site of the rally, saying hurray to the revolutionary ideas of Great President Kim Il-sung and Dear Leader Kim Jong-il," the Korean Central TV said.

Since his death in 1994, Kim Il-sung, who founded the country, has assumed the post of "Eternal President." The impoverished North runs a massive cult of personality around the Kim family. Kim Jong-il is now grooming his third son, Kim Jong-un, as his successor.

The rally, which brought together a wide collection of propaganda flags, began with a hymn to Kim Jong-il, the television said, while the participants pledged to fervently carry out the New Year goals.

North Koreans are said to be forced to memorize joint press editorials released every New Year's Day. The editorials are scrutinized by outside officials and analysts for hints into the isolated country's political and economic plans.

North Korea this year also called for dialogue with South Korea despite tensions that arose when it shelled a South Korean border island and killed four people on Nov. 23. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said in his New Year speech on Monday that his country would retaliate harshly if North Korea provoked it again, even though he left room for dialogue open.

Analysts believe the North, one of the poorest countries in the world, will have difficulties reviving its economy unless it opens up for outside resources. The North, which fears outside influence may undermine its grip on the 24-million population, made little mention of a need to open up economically in its New Year editorial.

samkim@yna.co.kr
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