North Korea celebrates Kim Jong II’s 69th birthday

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

SEOUL - North Korea Wednesday celebrated one of its most important holidays, the birthday of leader Kim Jong II, who was feted with cultural events including a flower show and skating competition, state media said.

Official accounts said it was Kim’s 69th birthday, and the first he has celebrated since telling a ruling party meeting that he intended to be succeeded by his third and youngest son, Kim Jong Un.

The festivities included a flower festival featuring blooming Kimjongilia, a hybrid flower named after Kim Jong II. The displays were grown by military units, schoolchildren and government ministries, state media reported.

Soldiers visited the festival, viewing the flowers and “praising the great man” in comments that “came to full bloom with boundless reverence and sincerity of the Korean people”, the Korean Central News Agency said.

State media said celebrations were held across the country as they touted the government’s “juche,” or self-reliance, policy.

Kim Jong II has isolated his country, brought it to the brink of economic ruin and made it reliant on foreign aid. He also leads one of the largest armies in the world and has provoked international fears with North Korea’s nuclear programme. Tensions rose further last year after the North fired artillery at a South Korean island, killing four people.

News about Kim Jong II is tightly controlled, but his health is believed to be poor after he suffered a stroke in 2008, according to intelligence reports.

Since then, speculation had swirled about who would take over from him. The questions appeared to be answered when Kim Jong II named Kim Jong Un to senior posts at the party meeting in September.

The appointments were similar to those the elder Kim received before he succeeded his own father in 1994.

Filed under: Politics

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