North Koreans celebrate late President Kim Il Sung’s birthday with fireworks

By By Sangwon Yoon, AP
Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Fireworks mark founder Kim’s birthday in NKorea

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Il marked the “Day of the Sun” — the anniversary of his late father’s birth 98 years ago Thursday — by promoting 100 loyal generals while Pyongyang residents watched a “kaleidoscope” of fireworks, state media said.

Fireworks and a laser display lit up the skies above the Taedong River on Wednesday night, said the Korean Central News Agency, the North’s official news agency.

“The evening of fireworks will demonstrate before the world the inexhaustible mental power and indomitable spirit” of North Korea as it pushes ahead its mission to build a “great, prosperous and powerful nation” by 2012, the centenary of founder Kim Il Sung’s birth, KCNA said Thursday.

All week, thousands have been lining up to lay flowers at the foot of the towering statue of Kim Il Sung, the guerrilla fighter-turned-political leader who founded the communist state in 1948, KCNA said. Kim Jong Il marked the holiday by watching a military drill, it said in reports earlier in the week.

April 15th is one of the most important holidays in North Korea, a day when even the average North Korean citizen gets a rare chance at gluttony, according to defectors now living in Seoul.

One recent defector recalled tables piled high with rice cakes; boiled pork and rice served in a hearty broth; seasoned spring greens, and her favorite: steamed pollack skin stuffed with ground fish meat and tofu.

“Every household prepared at least three kinds of rice cakes for the occasion,” she said, flashing a coy smile at the memory. “You also can’t forget the cookies and candy — holiday presents from the government.”

She asked that her name not be used to protect her family back in North Korea.

Such lavish meals are a rarity in North Korea, where flooding and mismanagement in the 1990s destroyed the economy and led to widespread famine. Millions now rely on handouts from foreign nations and international donor agencies.

Sanctions tightened in the wake of North Korea’s nuclear defiance last year are believed to have further strained food supplies in the impoverished country.

On Wednesday, the North’s No. 2 official, Kim Yong Nam, delivered a report at a customary national meeting that highlighted “the need to intensify the all-party and all-state general offensive for improving the people’s standard of living.”

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