PYONGYANG, North Korea – North Korea's failed rocket has reappeared in a new form — at an annual flower show that combines floral extravaganza with high praise for the country's founding father Kim Il Sung.
To mark what would have been Kim's 100th birthday, thousands came to central Pyongyang to view elaborate displays, mostly of the violet orchid Kimilsungia named in his honor and the red begonia Kimjongilia named for his son and successor, Kim Jong Il.
The Kimilsungia, named after Kim by the late Indonesian dictator Sukarno, has become an integral part of the ever-present state-sponsored propaganda that surrounds the late leader. The Kim family's hold over the country has continued with Kim Il Sung's grandson, the young Kim Jong Un, taking over after his father's death in December. No flower has been named after him, but an ode "Footsteps" in his praise was played at the exhibition.
Pictures of the late leaders' smiling faces towered over some 30,000 potted plants. So did a floral mock-up of the Unha-3 rocket that broke up over the Yellow Sea in a controversial launch Friday.
Kim's birthday on Sunday was the biggest celebration of the year for North Koreans, who received three days off for it.
Many came to Pyongyang's Kimilsungia-Kimjongilia Exhibition House in their best clothes on a warm spring day to have family portraits taken. One teenager stood primly next to the rocket as her father snapped her photo with his cell phone.
The exhibit of flowers cultivated by the State Academy of Sciences also trumpeted the latest achievements North Korea's government is seeking to promote.
A display sponsored by Pyongyang's urban planners includes miniature flower models of the new apartment towers built in front of the hill where the Kims' bronze statues lord over the city. Another cultivated by a firm that is providing most of the cement for the construction shows off a signed note from Kim Jong Un.
The largest display is a huge blanket of flowers depicting a unified Korea.
The exhibition hall was packed Tuesday with parents toting toddlers clad in traditional Korean outfits, mini military uniforms and tweed suits and armed with digital cameras and camcorders.
Groups of soldiers posed together for photos in front of the display sponsored by a unit of the Korean People's Army, while students still in their school uniforms snapped photos of one another as "Footsteps" blared in the background.
Outside, vendors were selling everything from hot dogs on sticks to strawberry-flavored ice cream sandwiches, as well as Minnie Mouse backpacks, and pots, planters and watering cans.