Journalists granted an unprecedented access as the secretive country marks 65 years of communist rule.
|Kim Jong-un, right, the heir apparent, made an appearance at the Arirang mass games venue in Pyongyang [REUTERS]|
North Korea has begun three days of celebrations to mark 65 years since the founding of the country’s Communist Workers’ Party.
For the first time, international media outlets, including Al Jazeera, are getting a rare glimpse inside the communist state – where the celebrations are being broadcast live from the capital, Pyongyang.
The festivities, which culminate in a massive military parade in capital, Pyongyang, on Sunday, are not only to mark the anniversary of communist rule.
North Korean officials are expected to use the weekend’s celebrations to declare the historic handover of power from ailing leader Kim Jong-il to his son and heir apparent, Kim Jong-un.
But there was no confirmation that Kim Jong-un would join his father in presiding over Sunday’s parade from a viewing platform at Kim Il-sung Plaza.
The parade was expected to be aired live on North Korean state TV in an unusual departure from broadcasting norms in North Korea, where any broadcasts are heavily censored.
“They are going to try to prove that their military might is nothing to be underestimated,” Yoo Ho-yeol, a professor of North Korean studies at Korea University in Seoul, said.
On Saturday, North Korea’s top leadership gathered at May Day Stadium for speeches celebrating the occasion.
|From our correspondent|
Later in the evening, Kim Jong-il brought dancers at the gymnastics extravaganza known as the Arirang mass games to tears by making a rare appearance, accompanied by Kim Jong-un and visiting top Chinese Communist Party official Zhou Yongkang.
Kim Jong-il waved to the crowd, drawing a frenzy of applause from onlookers, in what is believed to be his first appearance at the Arirang spectacle in years.
The two Kims’ appearance turned the Arirang show – part theatre, part circus, and involving some 100,000 performers – into a VIP event attended by wartime heroes, foreign dignitaries and the international press, who were given front-row seats.
The festivities began on Friday night with fireworks that lit up the sky over central Pyongyang.
Students danced across the city’s plazas and brass bands played “Please Receive the Best Wishes of the People,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported.
Yang Hyong Sop, a senior official in the country’s ruling party, told the Associated Press news agency on Friday that North Koreans will be honoured to follow Kim Jong-un.
“Our people take pride in the fact that they are blessed with great leaders from generation to generation,” Yang said.
“Our people are honoured to be led by the great president Kim Il Sung and the great general Kim Jong-il. Now we also have the honour of being led by General Kim Jong-un.”
Kim Jong-il announced his youngest known son’s appointment to two important political posts late last month in what was regarded as the first step in his succession plan.
The senior Kim came to power when his father died of heart failure in 1994, setting in motion the communist world’s first hereditary transfer of power.
He was officially chosen as successor in 1972, when he was elected to the party’s central committee, and the same scenario could hold true for his son.
The question of who will take over from the elder Kim, believed to suffer from a host of ailments, is important to regional dynamics as well as security, because of North Korea’s active nuclear and missile programmes, and regular threats it makes against rival South Korea.
Kim Jong-il rules under a songun (military-first) policy with a 1.2 million-member armed services.