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North Korea

'Covid-19-free' North Korea celebrates Day of the Sun with a blast

 Senior military officials watch a parade as portraits of late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il are seen in the background at the main Kim Il Sung square in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018.
Senior military officials watch a parade as portraits of late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il are seen in the background at the main Kim Il Sung square in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

North Korea fired several suspected cruise missiles Tuesday towards the sea. The projectiles were launched a day before National Day and also before the South holds parliamentary elections, while world attention has been largely focused on the coronavirus pandemic.

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15 April, “Juche 109/4/15” according to the North Korean calendar, is the Day of the Sun, a public holiday celebrating the birthday of the founder of North Korea, the “Eternal President” Kim Il Sung, grandfather of current leader Kim Jung-Un.

Pyongyang has repeatedly tried to show its technical capability on, or just before the Day of the Sun, in honor of the “Great Leader.” In April 2009 it launched a satellite, in April 2016, it tested an ICBM motor, on April 15, 2017 it launched a missile (that exploded in mid-air.)

Tuesday's missiles travelled over the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, before coming down in the water, according to a statement by South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

North Korean leader Kim Jung-Un with military leaders, 12 April 2020
North Korean leader Kim Jung-Un with military leaders, 12 April 2020 via REUTERS - KCNA

But the state controlled Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) didn’t mention the missiles.

Instead it reported on Kim Jung-Un receiving dozens of floral baskets and letters from dignitaries world wide, including from Bonginkosi Emmanuel Nzimande, the general secretary of the South African Communist Party, Nigerian President Muhammudu Buhari, and the leader of the Lao Communist Party, Bounnang Vorachith, pointing out that capital Pyongyang is “bedecked with flowers” ahead of the Day of the Sun.

No Covid-19

The Day of the Sun takes place three days after the yearly session of the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), North Korea’s “parliament” that, unlike its counterpart in China, the National People’s Congress, took place in spite of the pandemic.

The Cabinet Report, one of two reports submitted to the SPA repeated a claim that “not a single case [of COVID-19] has so far been reported in our country.”

North Korean leader Kim Jung-Un attending an "artillery competition" including land- and sea drills. He is the only one among his staff not wearing a face mask against the coronavirus.
North Korean leader Kim Jung-Un attending an "artillery competition" including land- and sea drills. He is the only one among his staff not wearing a face mask against the coronavirus. © kcna

According to 38north.org, a North Korea watchers website, the statement “corresponded with the fact that the photos of the SPA session show a convention hall filled with hundreds of delegates who were not wearing a face mask.”

Arouse the working people

But even if North Korean coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic seems eager to report on South Korea’s corona casualties, an article dated February 11 states that authorities had taken unidentified steps to “arouse the working people in all sectors to combat the novel coronavirus infection with highest consciousness,” indicating a high level of concern.

Earlier on, Korean news outlets showed Kim Jung-Un with his entourage where he is the only one not wearing a face mask, indicating that he may be untouchable by the virus.

North Korea's official media released images of leader Kim Jong Un overseeing a Korean People's Army "long-range artillery" drill at an undisclosed location last week
North Korea's official media released images of leader Kim Jong Un overseeing a Korean People's Army "long-range artillery" drill at an undisclosed location last week KCNA VIA KNS/AFP/File

 

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