North Korea displays rockets, begonias for leader's birthday

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In North Korea, leaders have rockets named after them. And begonias.

Thousands of Pyongyang residents attended Monday's opening of an elaborate flower exhibit featuring a bright-red begonia named "Kimjongilia" as well as models of North Korea's latest Kwangmyongsong rocket. Like the begonias, the rocket and the satellite it carried into orbit are named in honor of former leader Kim Jong Il, who is sometimes called the Kwangmyongsong, or Shining Star, of the nation.

The exhibit celebrates the birthday of the late North Korean leader and father of current leader Kim Jong Un. The elder Kim's birthday, on Tuesday, is known as the Day of the Shining Star and is one of North Korea's most important holidays.

Mixing flowers with mock-ups of missiles, rockets and other weaponry is a common feature of the annual festivals, which are designed to bolster national pride and reinforce the primacy of the Kim regime and the military. Another flower festival, featuring orchids named "Kimilsungia," is held each year on the birthday of national founder Kim Il Sung.

But the rockets took a special place of prominence this year.

Since a nuclear test on Jan. 6 and the subsequent satellite launch, North Korean media have gone into overdrive hailing the nation's technological and scientific progress and its heightened ability to protect itself against attack from its archenemy, the United States.

Both moves violate longstanding U.N. resolutions and could result in even stronger sanctions than those in effect against North Korea.

That hasn't deterred state media from gushing over what it has called "the complete success" of the test and launch.

State television's nightly news Monday was dominated by videos of the launch, on-site visits to the control and launch center on North Korea's northwest coast by Kim Jong Un, and scenes of generals' tearing up and applauding.

It also made a point of showing brief clips of something North Koreans very rarely see — South Korean TV networks' coverage.

South Korea has yet to launch a satellite into orbit on a domestically produced rocket.