North Koreans mark anniversary of founder’s birth

24
Seoul

North Korea marked the anniversary of the birth of its founder Kim Il Sung Thursday, with mask-wearing citizens placing flowers before his statue in Pyongyang.

The grandfather of the current leader Kim Jong Un was born 109 years ago and April 15 is the most important date in the nuclear-armed state’s annual political Calendar, where it is known as the Day of the Sun.

But the country is more isolated than ever after it imposed a strict border lockdown to protect itself from the coronavirus pandemic that first emerged in neighbouring China.

It still insists that it has not had any cases of the disease — a claim that analysts doubt — but has paid a heavy economic price.

Groups of Pyongyang residents went to Mansu hill, where giant bronze statues of founder Kim and his son and successor Kim Jong Il gaze out over the capital, to lay flowers at their base.

“Comrades Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il will always be with us” read a floral frieze.

Citizens, many of the women in traditional dress, were assembled in key locations for performances to mark the occasion.

In the streets, everyone wore masks, although the dancers for the shows had their faces uncovered.

It represented an increase in festivities compared with last year’s subdued events. “North Korea has brought the commemorations back to almost normal compared to last year when most activities were cancelled due to Covid,” Yang Moo-jin of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul told AFP.

Nonetheless several usual elements were missing, notably the Pyongyang Marathon, the country’s biggest annual tourism money-spinner, which was again cancelled due to the pandemic.

Pyongyang has also announced it will not attend the Tokyo Olympics.—APP