North Korean leader Kim Jong-un paid homage to his late grandfather as the country celebrated his 103rd birthday. Military and party executives and ordinary citizens vowed loyalty to the country and dozens of cannon salutes were unleashed.
At midnight, flowers were laid before the embalmed bodies of national founder Kim Il-sung and his son Kim Jong-il at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun to mark the “Day of the Sun,” according to the official Korean Central News Agency.
The participants “consolidated their pledge to actively contribute to building as soon as possible a rich, powerful and thriving paradise of the people, an unparalleled strong country,” the agency said.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (front) pays his respects to his late grandfather, national founder Kim Il-sung, at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
The young ruler has visited the mausoleum on the same day every year since taking power following his father’s death in December 2011, apparently to cement his ties to the Kim dynasty.
He was accompanied by senior military and party officials including Hwang Pyong-so, director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People’s Army; Ri Yong-gil, chief of general staff of the military; Kim Won-hong, minister of state security; and Kim Chun-sam, director of operations at the general staff of the military.
State media sought to invigorate a joyful mood. The Rodong Sinmun, the ruling Workers’ Party’s mouthpiece, relayed a series of articles commemorating the anniversary and the deceased leader, calling for loyalty to the incumbent. Meanwhile, TV networks began airing special programs from early in the morning.
The country also held a multitude of sports, arts and cooking events, as well as fireworks, and invited foreign nationals to attend. One day earlier, small- and large-scale rallies took place nationwide at various levels to revere Kim Jong-un and lambast the U.S. and its allies.
“Our military and people will sternly crush the increasingly vicious exercises for an aggressive war against us and the conspiracy plot over human rights by the U.S. and its follower forces, and firmly protect and adhere to our ideology, our system and our feat,” Kim Yong-nam, president of the Supreme People’s Assembly, said during a major rally at a Pyongyang stadium Tuesday.
In light of the crumbling economy and dire living conditions, the festivity triggered criticism at home and abroad, with rights groups and activists putting forward lost civil and political rights and other rampant rights abuses as the late founder’s legacy.
The Human Rights Watch said Kim Il-sung should be remembered for “creating a state characterized by rights violations and crimes against humanity.”
“Kim Il-sung based his rule on ruthless rights abuses, repression of independent voices, and economic and social controls that led to deprivation and ultimately widespread starvation,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at the New York-headquartered nongovernmental organization, in a statement.
“(Kim Jong-un) continues to follow those rights-abusing policies, and should be called before the International Criminal Court to answer for these crimes.”
By Shin Hyon-hee (email@example.com