North Korea Airs Rare Video of Leader at Rally

North Korea broadcast a video of leader Kim Jong Il attending a massive rally Saturday marking the reopening of a textile factory, a move seen as aimed at demonstrating his commitment to reviving the country's sagging economy.

Kim, who is believed to have recovered from a stroke in 2008, is often shown in state-distributed photos visiting army units and farms and watching musical concerts, but has rarely appeared in videos.

In the video shown Saturday on state television, Kim — wearing a parka, fur hat and sunglasses — clapped his hands and waved to a crowd of people packing a plaza in the eastern coastal city of Hamhung.

He was flanked by top deputies including No. 2 leader Kim Yong Nam on an elevated stage as people waved red paper flowers below.

The rally marked the completion of a factory producing a North Korean-invented synthetic textile called "vinalon," state TV said.

North Korea "is sure to win a final victory in the drive for building a thriving nation as long as there are the ever-victorious Songun (military-first) leadership of Kim Jong Il and the large contingent of heroic workers like those in the vinalon industry," senior Workers' Party official Thae Jong Su told the rally, according to the official Korean Central News Agency. Kim didn't speak at the rally, according to the video.

The factory, established in 1961, reportedly shut amid worsening economic difficulties in the mid-1990s. The North's state media have said it recently resumed producing vinalon, and that would help the country become an economically prosperous nation.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported Saturday that it was the first time that Kim has attended a rally related to the economy, he though routinely observes military parades and political events.

Yonhap said the video appeared aimed at soothing growing public frustration over botched currency reforms and at showing that Kim is focusing on improving the economy and living conditions.

Communist North Korea has relied on outside food handouts since the mid-1990s, when its economy collapsed due to natural disasters and mismanagement, and aid from the former Soviet Union dried up after its collapse.