All is temporarily "quiet" on the crazy Pyongyang front, and when you least expected it. After disappearing from the public eye for two weeks, America's favorite "artificial" head of state, Kim Jong-un, re-emerged at midnight Monday to celebrate the most important holiday in North Korea—albeit a scaled down version without any fireworks, figurative or otherwise.
Last we checked, Kim had not been seen out in the open for nearly two weeks, which struck even the closest Korea watchers as odd, considering the state media had been continuing on about targeting Tokyo and foreigners and more. There were whispers of a coup, and, not unlike like Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who also enjoys his two-week private respites, there are obvious concerns about Kim's personal security.
But then he appeared, at midnight local time, to visit the final resting place of his embalmed grandfather, Kim Il-Sung, on what would have been his 101st birthday. And, as speculation would have had it, the so-called "Day of the Sun" could have been an excuse for a show of force, but the state-run Korean Central News Agency reports on a much more somber show of face:
Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, first chairman of the DPRK National Defence Commission and supreme commander of the Korean People's Army, visited the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun to pay deep respects to the great Generalissimos Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il at 00:00 on Monday, the Day of the Sun (birth anniversary of President Kim Il Sung).
The Kumsusan Palace of the Sun is home to the
creepy embalmed bodies of Kim's father and grandfather. And to pay respect to them, Kim apparently had a couple floral baskets in tow, just to remind everyone how (over)preserved his relatives should be. KCNA adds:
Written on the ribbons of the floral baskets were the letters reading "The great Comrades Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il will always be with us".
Kim Jong Un, with the participants, made a deep bow to the statues of the great Generalissimos.
North Korea's Day of the Sun is traditionally one of the Kim regime's favorite times to flex some international military muscle, showing the power it wields over its own people and, as the Kim regime would have it, over the ret of the world. The holiday is usually peppered with opulent dance performances and military parades in Pyongyang...
...and usually there are serious fireworks:
And while there was that weird marathon on Sunday, there was no military parade in North Korea on Monday, "nor any large-scale festivities," reports Voice of America's Steve Herman. Even this was just considered a "visit" to the statues of Kims past:
(Photo by Kyodo via Reuters)
Indeed, all those nuclear threats and declarations of war may have been enough for North Korea to celebrate its biggest holiday as just that—a holiday, because Koreans are pretty high-strung right now, in the North and South. There were picnics and there was dancing, and there were signs that a medium-range missile launcher may be ready, but it made "no sense" to fire anything Monday, according to NK News. And according to South Korea's Yonhap news, apparently the Kim regime was too "preoccupied" with its so-so party to go big this year on the holiday, at which Kim gave his first major public speech in 2012. "Despite all of the events taking place, North Korean observers said there are signs that the country is on edge over the level of tension surrounding the Korean Peninsula at present, and that the scale of the festivities are not on par with 2012," Monday's Yonhap report reads.
As night fell on a rocket-free Day of the Sun, a pall still cast over the Korean tensions. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, after a weekend visit to the peninsula, China, and Japan, indicated Sunday in Tokyo that Kim Jong-un needed to make the first "appropriate" move in de-arming North Korea's apparent nuclear arsenal. In an interview with CNN Monday, Kerry said that the U.S. was 'not going to go through another cycle of artificial negotiations that are geared to simply attract some kind of aid or lull in events while they continue to pursue their devices' designs," signaling that he would be ready for talks if Kim and Co. met conditions "where the North has to move towards denuclearization, indicate a seriousness in doing so by reducing these threats, stop the testing, and indicate it's actually prepared to negotiate." The North, of course, wants none of that. But, hey, not chucking a missile at South Korea or Japan has got to count for something, right?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.