North Korea gears up for anniversary, rocket launch

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Apr 8, 2012 - 20:35
  • Updated : Apr 9, 2012 - 09:54

North Korean technicians check the Unha-3 rocket at Tangachai -ri space center on Sunday. (AFP-Yonhap News)

With only days to go before launching a satellite to mark the centenary of its late founder Kim Il-sung’s birth, North Korea held a series of lavish events to celebrate the completion of power plants, factories and buildings, news reports said.

North Korea has said it will launch Kwangmyongsong-3 some time between April 12 and 16, in celebration of the 100th year of Kim’s birth on April 15. The launch is part of moves to declare 2012 the year when North Korea becomes a “power state.”

The North’s Korean Central News Agency said on Friday that Pyongyang held ceremonies to mark the completion of Huichon Power Plant 1 and 2, located near Chongchon River, capable of generating 300,000 kilowatts of electricity. The construction of the two power plants was a major goal for Pyongyang, and one which late leader Kim Jong-il had ordered reached by 2012.

The North also unveiled a huge rock carving on Thursday in memory of the nation’s founder.

The 37-meter inscription was hewn into a natural rock face near Bakyeon Falls in Gaeseong city, near the border with South Korea, the official news agency said.

The message ― “Our eternal leader Comrade Kim Il-sung: Dedicated to the centenary of the birth of the leader, April 15, Juche 101 (2012)” ― is “an immortal monument which will always shine along with the Seongun era,” the news agency said.

On the same day, multiple news reports from the state said the North completed a clothes factory, a water pipe linking Nampo and Pyongyang and a cement factory.

In Pyongyang, development projects are still under way in the Mansudae area for high-rise apartments and a theater.

In the eastern part of the capital, which is less developed than western Pyongyang, the North is near completion of a public bath house and an outdoor ice-skating venue, according to state media.

Along with the celebrations, the North’s rocket launch is nearly ready, analysts said.

A U.S. specialist website, the 38 North, said the North may have moved the first stage of a long-range rocket to its launch pad, ahead of its possible lift-off this or next week.

An April 4 photo of the launch site at Dongchang-ri in the country’s northwest indicated the first stage of the Unha-3 rocket, while not visible, may be placed in the gantry, the website said.

Meanwhile, foreign media reporters have arrived in Pyongyang to cover the North’s planned rocket launch, the country’s official news agency reported.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said in a dispatch Saturday that reporters from more than 20 media firms, including the Associated Press, CNN, Reuters, AFP, BBC, Kyodo News and NHK, had arrived in Pyongyang on Friday and Saturday.

By Kim Yoon-mi and news reports