North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

KIS Birthday (A lot of water under the bridge)

The country held a relatively subdued celebration on Thursday (15 April) for the 98th birthday of the late DPRK President, Kim Il Sung.  Unlike the dual debauchery of the February celebrations for the Lunar New Year and KJI’s birthday, it seems the Central Party’s propaganda and workers’ orgs management are pacing themselves in the middle of April.

This is the midpoint for a month of significant anniversaries and celebrations, the final two will be 20 April (Tuesday) which will be the 17th anniversary of Kim Jong Il’s appointment as Marshal of the Korean People’s Army and the Sunday following (25 April) the anniversary of the KPA’s foundation.

This picture released by KCNA, official news agency of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), shows a national meeting commemorating the 98th anniversary of birth of Kim Il Sung, founder of DPRK, in Pyongyang April 14, 2010. (Xinhua/KCNA)

On 14 April, a national reporting meeting was held at the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium for which SPA President Kim Yong Nam delivered a report.  On 15 April, groups of KWP and government delegations and foreign delegations visited Mangyongdae and the KIS statue on Mansudae Hill in Pyongyang.  The KIS Youth League was active, hosting dancing parties, hosting a national meeting of the Korean Children’s Union.

Fireworks display on the Taedong River in honor of the Day of the Sun (Photo: KCNA and Yonhap)

Following the central report meeting on 14 April, the KWP organized a fireworks display.  Unlike 2009, Kim Jong Il did not attend this year’s fireworks display.  Earlier this week it was reported that KJI was accompanied by his hereditary successor, Kim Jong Un.  There were no indications or rumors, as yet, of whether KJU did or did not attend the fireworks.

Kim Jong Il has been relatively active this week.  He began the week on a field guidance tour of Kim Il Sung University, which included the opening of a recently constructed E-library.  He was reported by KCNA on Tuesday (13 April) to have observed the military exercises of KPA Unit 567, which were held “on the occasion of the Day of the Sun.”  KJI also attended a concert by the Unhasu Orchestra:

Expressing great satisfaction with the wonderful concert rich in ideological contents and high in artistry, he extended thanks to them in the name of the Central Committee of the WPK.

He expressed expectation and conviction that the entire army and all the people would work heart and soul as befitting soldiers and disciples of the President and build a thriving socialist nation on this land as early as possible and thus further glorify the dignity and honor of Kim Il Sung’s Korea.

Among the audience were KPA Vice Marshal Kim Yong Chun, vice-chairman of the DPRK National Defence Commission and minister of the People’s Armed Forces, KPA General Kim Jong Gak, member of the NDC of the DPRK and first vice-director of the General Political Bureau of the KPA, KPA General Ri Yong Ho, chief of the General Staff of the KPA, KPA Vice Marshal Kim Il Chol, member of the DPRK NDC, and other commanding officers of the KPA, Secretaries Choe Thae Bok and Kim Ki Nam and Department Directors Kim Kyong Hui and Jang Song Thaek and other leading officials of the WPK Central Committee, leading officials of party, armed forces and power bodies, working people’s organizations, ministries and national institutions, servicepersons of the KPA, officials of the fields of science, education, culture and arts, public health and media and working people of different strata.

There were no outward indications of succession in the festivities.  However in the KCNA’s careful English paraphrasing of the 15 April Day of the Sun Rodong Sinmun editorial, there is a reference of a final victory:

Steadfast is his faith and will to glorify Kim Il Sung’s Korea prospering thanks to the President’s ideas and exploits no matter how much water may flow under the bridge.

The cause of building a thriving nation is sure to be crowned with a final victory as Kim Il Sung wishes the Korean people a happy future and the WPK, an organizer and guide of all victories of the Korean people, leads the drive for a great surge and the servicepersons and people have turned out as one to work miracles in hearty response to the call of the party.

Sam Kim wrote a report for Yonhap on the country’s celebrations, succession and NK defectors’ delivery of a balloon bouquet on KIS’ birthday.

An affiliate of 38 North