Monday, October 11, 2010

Lavish North Korean public display demonstrates smooth transition of power

Kim Jong Un (left) with his father Kim Jong Il (3rd R) of DPRK, and Zhou Yongkang (2nd R), a member of the Communist Party of China, watching a grand evening gala held to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the founding of the Workers' Party of Korea, Oct. 10, 2010.
North Korean leader-in-waiting Kim Jong Un appeared Sunday with his father at a mass-scale military parade, also attended by a senior Chinese official, Zhou Yongkang, observing the 65th birthday of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea (WPK).

The show of military might started at 10 a.m. local time Sunday with a salvo of 21 guns, after a flag-raising ceremony and a performance by the military band. In front of over 100,000 spectators, 34 phalanxes of cadets and soldiers from different military and paramilitary services and institutions marched in gallant goose-steps, with their heads turned toward Kim on his tribune of honor. Following them were tanks, armored personnel carriers, and artillery rockets and missiles, including several types of surface-to-surface missiles that had never been publicly displayed before.

The sight of the two Kims side by side above a huge portrait of Kim Il Sung, and later waving to the crowd, drew cheers of "Hurrah!" and some tears from North Koreans attending the parade in the heart of the capital, Pyongyang. "He's the one, exactly the same as Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il," gushed Kim Soh Ye, a young woman in a Korean gown who was escorting foreign journalists for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

To let the world see the heir apparent dubbed the Young General, the regime allowed international journalists to capture the spectacle after more than two years of virtually closing its borders to foreign media. Select media outlets were given front-row seats.

"Kim Jong Il needed to show that the succession is going well, that there is unity of purpose between the party and the military," said Moon Chung-in, a political-science professor at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea. "If there was internal turmoil, he could not come up with this kind of show."

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