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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 273 (August 1, 2013)

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

*** TOPIC OF THE WEEK (Part 2)

North Korea Holds Extravaganza of Events for 60th Anniversary of Armistice

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Amid deepening economic plight and tightened international sanctions, North Korea held an extravaganza of events, military parade and mass rallies and invited a large number of foreign guests and reporters for the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War on July 27, which the North celebrates as the day of victory in what it calls the Fatherland Liberation War.

North Korea held a military parade and a mass demonstration simultaneously in its capital, which North Korea experts in Seoul believe were designed to show the stability of the North Korean system under the young leader Kim Jong-un and its military strength both to its citizens and to the outside world.

The impoverished country also held various congratulatory performances, including mass gymnastics and art performance called "Arirang," and dancing parties and also threw lavish offering of national orders to a total of 47,075 "meritorius people," including soldiers who participated in the 1950-53 Korean conflict.

The three-year war ended in a cease-fire agreement, not a peace treaty, leaving the two Koreas technically in a state of war.

The (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that a military parade and mass demonstration took place with splendor at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang on July 27, the 60th anniversary of the victory in the great Fatherland Liberation War with the attendance of Kim Jong-un, Li Yuanchao, vice president of China and head of the Chinese delegation, as well as heads of other foreign delegations and top North Korean officials of party, state and army.

Various military weapons, including armored personnel carriers, tanks and artilleries and short-, medium- and long-range missiles marched through the square filled with Pyongyang citizens following the procession of infantry units. Helicopters and aircraft hovered over the square to boost the festive mood.

Following the military parade, a mass demonstration was proceeded for about a half an hour.

The KCNA said similar meetings took place in provinces, cities (districts), counties and industrial complexes across North Korea to mark the anniversary.

It was very rare for the socialist country to hold both the military parade and the mass demonstration at the same time in Pyongyang. The last time the two events were held simultaneously on the armistice anniversary was in 1993.

On the eve of the anniversary, North Korea held a grand national meeting at May Day Stadium in Pyongyang. Kim Jong-un attended the meeting along with the Chinese vice president and top North Korean officials. Also attending the meeting were delegates of war veterans, diplomatic envoys from various countries, representatives of international organizations and members of the military attaches corps in Pyongyang, the KCNA said.

North Korea also held various concerts, exhibitions, dancing parties during the week-long celebration period around the armistice anniversary.

In a rare move, North Korea held an art performance and dancing party of service personnel of the (North) Korean People's Army (KPA) at the plaza outside the hall at Panmunjom, where the Armistice Agreement was signed 60 years ago.

Earlier, KPA general officer Ryo Chol-ung said that "the great victory in the war was a shining fruition of the wise leadership of the great Generalissimo Kim Il-sung" and called on all service personnel to glorify the ever-victorious history and tradition with powerful arms.

"Slogans and songs reflecting the fixed will of the service personnel to display fireworks of victory in the grand struggle for national reunification reverberated far and wide in the sky above Panmunjom," the KCNA said.

North Korea's extravagant dancing parties and concerts continued on the following day of the anniversary. The KCNA said a night dancing party was held for the youths and students at Kim Il-sung Stadium.

On the same day, a state chorus and combined military band of the KPA threw an integrated performance of arts and music at the April 25 Culture Hall, while acrobatic suite "For My Only Motherland" was held at the Pyongyang Circus Theater.

Kim Jong-un had official contacts with foreign reporters for the first time since he took the helm of the country in December 2011. North Korea invited a large number of foreign reporters, including those from the West, for the 60th anniversary events. On July 27 Foreign reporters had a rare opportunity to see Kim Jong-un in close proximity. Some reporters asked questions to Kim, but the North Korean leader declined to answer any questions, simply nodding his head and smiling and waving his hand gently to the reporters.

Observers say the fact that a large number of foreign reporters were invited into North Korea and were allowed an official contact with Kim shows that the North intended to show a friendly image of the young leader to the foreign press.

Chang Yong-suk, a researcher at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University, said North Korea seemed to have made desperate efforts to show the stability of the North Korean regime and the leadership of Kim Jong-un to the outside world through the extravagant events amid economic plight and toughened international economic sanctions.

Meanwhile, there is criticism that North Korea's lavish events to demonstrate its stability and the growth of its expenditure to maintain its system run counter to the purpose of international assistances given to the country on humanitarian grounds.

<All rights reserved by Yonhap News Agency>

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/yonhap-news-agency/130731/north-korea-newsletter-no-273-august-1-2013-1