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North Korea Newsletter 358 (April 16, 2015)

All Headlines 11:00 April 16, 2015


N. Korea Celebrates Kim Il-sung's birth anniversary

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea commemorated the April 15 birth anniversary of its founder, Kim Il-sung, in grand fashion to show its respect for the leader who died in 1994 and to vow allegiance to the current leader and the founder's grandson, Kim Jong-un.

Commemorative events ranged from lavish sporting and cultural performances to rallies across North Korea to take an oath of loyalty to Kim Jong-un. The 103rd anniversary, the biggest festival in the socialist country, comes as North Korea's current leader has consolidated his power after the end of the three-year mourning period following the death of his father, Kim Jong-il.

Kim, who is believed to be in his early 30s, took power in late 2011 after his father died of a heart attack.

The North's leader has vowed to simultaneously pursue nuclear weapons and economic development, commonly known as "byongjin policy," making the country more isolated in the international community. Seoul and others have called on the North to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

At a parliamentary session that convened in Pyongyang on April 9, North Korea reaffirmed its will to continue to expand its nuclear capability while trying to bolster its weak economy this year.

Various Celebration Events

As a customary action to show his leadership, Kim Jong-un paid tribute to Kim Il-sung by visiting the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, where the bodies of Kim Il-sung and late leader Kim Jong-il lie in state, at midnight on April 15, accompanied by top military officials.

Kim has paid tribute to his grandfather every year on his birth anniversary, called the "Day of the Sun," along with high-ranking military officials since he took power. The army officials who accompanied Kim included Hwang Pyong-so, director of the general political bureau of the Korean People's Army (KPA), Ri Yong-gil, chief of the KPA General Staff, and Kim Won-hong, minister of state security.

The military leaders pledged to unite around Kim Jong-un and to contribute to the establishment of a thriving paradise for the people and a strong country, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the North's official media.

The KCNA said foreign diplomatic envoys, representatives of international organizations and military attaches of foreign embassies in Pyongyang and foreign guests were present there on invitation.

In the evening a grand fireworks show embroidered the sky over Pyongyang to heighten the festive mood of the birth anniversary. The Korean Central TV broadcast live the event held in the vicinity of Banwoldo of Taedong River and Okryu and Rungra bridges from 8 p.m. The TV footage showed crowds of Pyongyang citizens, students and some foreigners gathered in various places to enjoy the show. North Korean radio stations also covered the 15-minute event.

It was in 2009 when the fireworks were first staged on Kim Il-sung's birth anniversary. North Korea then said the event was the work of Kim Jong-un. The fireworks show has been an annual event since 2009 except for 2011.

There was a banquet to celebrate the anniversary at the People's Palace of Culture with the attendance of the North's top officials, including Kim Yong-nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA), Park Pong-ju, Cabinet premier, Choe Thae-bok, chairman of the SPA, and foreign diplomats stationed in Pyongyang, the KCNA said.

The Rodong Sinmun, the organ of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), devoted six entire pages to stories about the commemorative events for Kim Il-sung's birth anniversary and articles urging allegiance to Kim Jong-un.

On April 13, the Rodong Sinmun allocated most of its sections to highlighting the accomplishments that the late leader made during his rule. The newspaper also carried photos showing that Kim met with ordinary people when he was young.

The late leader provided "a solid foundation for the sovereignty of the country and the prosperity of the nation for all ages," said the KCNA.

The Korean Central Television aired special programs for the Day of the Sun from the morning hours of the anniversary day.

On April 14, a national meeting took place at the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium to celebrate the birth anniversary of Kim Il-sung. North Korea's top officials, including Kim Yong-nam, Hwang Pyong-so, and Pak Pong-ju, attended the meeting, during which participants pledged their loyalty to Kim Jong-un.

Kim Yong-nam said that Kim Il-sung's birth was a "great fortune for the Korean people as they acclaimed the sun of Juche for the first time in the history spanning five thousand years and a worldwide event which brought progressive mankind the dawn in the era of independence."

He called upon all party members, service personnel and people to hold Kim Il-sung in high esteem as the sun of Juche for all ages with the national pride and honor of living and struggling as his descendants, the KCNA said, adding that similar meetings took place in provinces, cities, counties and complexes that day.

Oath of Allegiance

On the previous day, high-ranking North Korean officials vowed allegiance to Kim Jong-un as the communist country prepares to celebrate the 103rd birthday of Kim Il-sung, the North's media said.

In a rally, Kim Young-nam pledged loyalty to Kim Jong-un on behalf of other high-level officials, according to a video clip aired by the Korean Central Television. The rally was attended by Hwang Pyong-so and Choe Ryong-hae, the secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, among others.

North Korea's military also pledged its loyalty to Kim Jong-un in a meeting at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun on April 12.

The KCNA said a ceremony of service personnel of the ground, navy, air and anti-air force and strategic force of the Korean People's Army took place at the plaza of the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun "to express profound homage to President Kim Il-sung and leader Kim Jong-il and pledge loyalty to Marshal Kim Jong-un" on the occasion of the birth anniversary of the president.

Hwang Pyong-so, Ri Yong-gil and other commanding officers of the KPA, men and officers of its ground, navy, air and anti-air force and strategic force attended the ceremony.

After offering lavish compliments to Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, Hwang referred to the faith and will of all service personnel to accomplish with arms the Songun revolutionary cause of Juche under the leadership of Kim Jong-un. Juche is the North's guiding ideology, which emphasizes self-reliance and independence.

He said Kim Il-sung founded the Juche idea and the Songun (military-first policy) idea, brilliantly embodied them and thus built a dignified socialist power and built the People's Army into a match-for-a-hundred powerful revolutionary army, thus providing a solid foundation for the sovereignty of the country and the prosperity of the nation for all ages.

Kim Jong-il brought about successive victories in the unprecedented struggle for defending socialism with his energetic Songun revolutionary leadership, thereby performing the gigantic feats of making sure that the country ranked itself among the full-fledged nuclear weapons states and the world-level military powers.

All the participants chanted slogans, reflecting their will to hold more tightly the arms of the revolution given to them by the great Generalissimos and accomplish without fail the great cause of Mount Paektu under the Songun revolutionary leadership of Kim Jong-un, the KCNA said.

Meanwhile, an oath-taking meeting of agricultural workers was held at the Wonhwa Co-op Farm in Pyongwon County, South Pyongan Province, on April 13 on the occasion of the 103rd birth anniversary of President Kim Il Sung while a national meeting was held at the Central Youth Hall in Pyongyang on the same day to mark the 50th anniversary of the naming of a flower, Kimilsungia, after Kim Il-sung.

North Korea also held lavish commemorative events to fan the festive mood. Since 1997, the North has celebrated the April 15 anniversary with lavish sporting events and festivals.

A marathon race took place with due ceremony at the Kim Il Sung Stadium on April 12 to celebrate the birth anniversary of Kim Il-sung with more than 800 male and female marathoners, including 650 foreigners from 30 countries, according to the KCNA.

Choe Ryong-hae, members of the State Physical Culture and Sports Guidance Commission and concerned officials attended the opening ceremony.

The National Martial Art Championship for Mangyongdae Prize opened in Taekwon-Do Hall on April 14 with more than 600 male and female players selected from 25 organizations, including taekwondo teams all over the country. They will compete in taekwondo, go and other events at the Taekwon-Do Hall and other places.

A performance was given by the members of the art groups of the Pyongyang Schoolchildren's Palace on April 13. The performance, which started with the prelude, "Day of the Sun is eternal thanks to Marshal", included such numbers as a male solo "First song I learned to sing" and a dance, "Joy on holiday."

A national calligraphy festival was opened with due ceremony at the Pyongyang International House of Culture on April 10 on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Kim Il-sung. At least 250 pieces of calligraphic work dealing with their aphorisms, contemporary words, famous compositions and lyric passages written with diverse strokes created by calligraphers and calligraphic enthusiasts in work sites for building a thriving nation were on display, according to the KCNA.

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