Party Time in Pyongyang, by Aidan Foster-Carter

[From time to time CanKor alerts readers to papers published by our partner-site 38North. The following article is authored by long-time CanKor friend and contributor Aiden Foster-Carter. Please follow our link to the current article on the 38North site. –CanKor]

As I write this article, April is already more than half over. In North Korea, the party is over, bar the shouting. But in Pyongyang, the shouting never really stops, or not for long anyway.

Kim Jong Un waves to the masses during the military parade commemorating Kim Il Sung’s centenary birthday. (Photo: AP)

True, this event-packed month is not quite done yet. The April 28 Spring Friendship Art Festival still has a few days to run, bringing to the good people of Pyongyang such cultural delights as the Trumpet Ensemble of Belarus. Not forgetting the song and dance troupe of the General Political Department of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. (Catchy name!)

Lest you imagine this has anything to do with art, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) was commendably candid. Announcing the festival on March 29, KCNA hailed the “over 50 art troupes from 20 odd countries… Their performances will be devoted to praising President Kim Il Sung, revered as the sun of Juche by the world progressives.” That surely can’t apply to the Festival’s most unlikely performers: the Sons of Jubal, a 150-strong male chorus who are all Baptist music ministers from Georgia (the US state, not the country). So much for aesthetics.

One important date yet to come is April 25. That’s Army Day, which this year marks the 80th anniversary of the Korean People’s Army (KPA). Like much in the DPRK’s official history, this is fiction. The real KPA wasn’t formed until 1948, on February 8. That was the date they celebrated until 1978, when it got pushed back to mark instead the supposed founding of Kim Il Sung’s tiny guerrilla band in 1932. In North Korea, after all, myth rules.

Just in case the rumors are right and the DPRK is contemplating a nuclear test to compensate for the failed rocket launch on April 13, then April 25 might be deemed an appropriate date for it. But this article lays off the rocketry, amply covered by 38 North of late, to look instead at the politics which unfolded in Pyongyang last week. What happened, and what have we learned? Read the rest of this entry »

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