While the US and South Korea were on high alert for a missile launch on Thursday, North Korea was celebrating its ruling Kim dynasty and appeared to tone down rhetoric of impending war.
Despite threats it will attack US bases and the South in response to any hostile acts, North Korea started to welcome a stream of visitors for Monday’s birthday celebrations of its founding father, Kim Il-sung.
Performers carry a flag at the opening of the April Spring People’s Art Festival at the East Pyongyang Grand Theater on April 11.
The festival opened Thursday to mark late president Kim Il-sung’s birthday on April 15, known in North Korea as the Day of the Sun. In the background are portraits of late North Korean leaders Kim Il-sung and his son, Kim Jong-il.
Meanwhile Pyongyang issued a statement that appeared to be tinged with regret over the closure of the joint Kaesong industrial zone that was shuttered when it ordered its workers out this week, terming the North-South Korean venture “the pinnacle of General Kim Jong-il’s limitless love for his people and brothers”.
The statement on North Korea’s KCNA news agency blamed South Korean President Park Geun-hye for bringing the money-spinning venture to “the brink of shutting down.”
Kim Jong-il, Kim Il-sung’s son, ruled North Korea until his death in December 2011. He was succeeded by Kim Jong-un, the third of his line to preside over one of the world’s poorest and most heavily militarized countries.
Since taking office, Kim Jong-un, 30, has staged two long-range rocket launches and a nuclear weapons test. The nuclear test in February triggered UN sanctions that Pyongyang has termed a hostile act and a precursor to invasion.
For over a month, North Korea has issued an almost daily series of threats to the US and South Korea, most recently warning foreigners to leave the South due to an impending “thermonuclear” war.
Apart from the swipe at South Korea’s new president, verbal threats appeared to fall off as KCNA listed arrivals for the upcoming birthday celebrations, naming an eclectic mix ranging from Chinese businessmen to Cold War-era enthusiasts of its socialist monarchy and official ideology of “Juche,” or self-reliance.
Reinforcing the rule of the Kim dynasty and the legitimacy of Kim Jong-un to hold power in Pyongyang is a key tenet of North Korea’s ideology.
It was the first anniversary on Thursday of Kim Jong-un’s official ascent to power, although he became de-facto leader immediately after his father’s death.
Key North Korean anniversaries:
11 April – Kim Jong-un elected first secretary of the Workers’ Party, and late father Kim Jong-il named General Secretary for Eternity in 2012
13 April – Kim Jong-un appointed first chairman of the National Defence Commission in 2012
15 April – Birthday of state founder Kim Il-sung (15 April 1912- 8 July 1994)