50,000 North Korean troops and civilians gathered at Kim Il-sung Stadium Saturday in Pyongyang to cheer on their young leader Kim Jung-un. It was another warm-up event to Sunday’s parade and celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the birthday of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung.
No disappointment could be found over Friday’s failed rocket launch.With government representatives nearby, one soldier noted that missiles from other countries fail as well. Another was convinced that next time it will go OK.
While Founder Kim was remembered, Leader Kim was center stage. The crowd pledged their support, promising to lay down their lives for the young man.
Consolidation of power is what these days are all about. Kim Jung-un has now gathered, all the titles he needs to run the military and political machine. And others around him have moved up as well.
He proceeds through these events (including an even larger one Friday unveiling a new statue of his father and late leader Kim Jung-il) with a detached calm. You have to wonder what is going through the young man’s mind as he surveys the crowds and contemplates his country’s ills.
The rocket that went wrong, some say, is a reminder of what is not right here. Estimates of the cost of the whole doomed project now run close to a billion dollars while analysts note millions in this impoverished land struggle for food and shelter.
On display here in Pyongyang are glistening new apartment towers, stores and leisure facilities. Funds poured into an effort to use the capital as a symbol of a supposedly prosperous country again, as experts have said the rest of the country scrapes by.
The soldiers gathered Saturday are also a reminder of the money spent on the defense budget. “Military First” was the motto of the Kim Jung-il. While improving the economy has been a stated aim of the new regime, in gatherings here, the priorities still appear to be different.
Sunday’s military parade and show of force will be more of the same. Then when the visiting foreign guests and media are gone, North Korea will get back to sorting out its troubled future.