Tears in rain: N Korea marks ‘Victory Day’

PYONGYANG: In heavy rain, North Koreans put down their umbrellas to bow before the mausoleum of founder Kim Il Sung and his son on Thursday as the country marked the end of the Korean War, which it calls Victory Day.
There had been widespread speculation in US and South Korean intelligence circles that the North might choose to mark the anniversary with a fresh missile launch, following its first successful test earlier this month of an intercontinental ballistic missile that experts judged capable of reaching Alaska or Hawaii.
As of late Thursday, no such launch had materialised and, in Pyongyang, the day was given over to memorialising the ruling Kim dynasty as the defenders of the nation.
“Our country is ever-victorious because we have the greatest leaders in the world,” said Hong Yong-Dok, who was at the Kumsusan Palace with his granddaughters.
The Korean people had suffered at the hands of “imperialists for ages, and even my parents were killed by them in the Korean War.
So we must teach our descendants to take revenge on the US imperialists,” he said.
July 27, 1953 marks the signing of the armistice between China, North Korea, and US-backed United Nations forces that had fought each other to a stalemate over three years.
Nonetheless the North — whose invasion of the South started the war, despite its insistence that it was invaded by the United States — regards itself as having won what it calls the Fatherland Liberation War.
The conflict left the peninsula devastated, with the South’s capital Seoul changing hands four times.
Korea has been divided ever since, with the now democratic South emerging from the wreckage to enjoy an economic boom that has propelled it to become Asia’s fourth-largest economy.
In the absence of a peace treaty the two sides are technically still at war, and under the Kim family dynasty, now in its third generation in leader Kim Jong-Un, the North has embraced an “army first” policy.
It has developed nuclear weapons, detonating five devices so far, and celebrated the recent ICBM test as a giant leap forward in its development of a credible delivery system to threaten the US mainland.
The North occasionally times its missile firings to coincide with significant anniversaries, leading to habitual speculation of an imminent test before each one.
Inside the Kumsusan Palace, a sprawling complex of colonnaded marble chambers and chandeliers, Kim and his son and successor Kim Jong-Il lie in state.
Their embalmed bodies rest in glass coffins on biers in separate halls suffused with dim red light, soldiers standing guard in each corner as a steady stream of visitors bows before them three times.
“I was moved to tears when I met the great leaders,” retired financial official Ri Sun-Gyong, 71, said afterwards, her voice trembling with emotion. ‘‘I always miss them.”
Ordinary North Koreans normally only express officially-approved sentiments when talking to international media. — AFP