North Korea’s 70th Anniversary Extravaganza Sowing Resentment

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

As North Korea prepares to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the communist ruling Korean Workers’ Party, signs have begun to spring that the nation’s people are growing restless and fatigued of the constant military displays, crippling repression, and widespread poverty.

North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong-Un, is currently preparing for what is expected to be a massive military parade on Saturday, October 10—the anniversary of the founding of his party. For weeks, many have speculated that Kim will use the parade to flaunt new military technology, or celebrate by launching a long-range rocket. The United States has weighed in, warning that such behavior, which would violate United Nations law, will result in “strong actions taken by the international community.”

Experts note, however, that there appear to be no signs in recent satellite images or whispers in the security community that North Korea is planning a rocket launch. “We don’t see any signs of making preparations for an imminent launch such as the movement of a launch vehicle” to the launch pad, a South Korean government official told AFP on Tuesday. Even Yonhap, a South Korean news agency that has previously reported that Kim fed one of his uncles to 120 starved dogs, is reporting that the odds of a rocket launch on Saturday are slim.

“We have nothing to be afraid of. We will go ahead, definitely, surely,” Hyun Hak Bong, North Korea’s ambassador to London, said of a potential rocket launch last week.

Lost in concerns of North Korea increasing its military belligerence are reports that North Korean people are being slightly more vocal in their disapproval of the lavish celebration. AFP reported on Wednesday that average North Koreans in Pyongyang are being forced to pay extra for a variety of common goods in order to fund the parade, “everything from electronic goods to food and home fuel,” according to reports from a South Korea-based news agency. “People are getting increasingly resentful,” a source told the publication.

Radio Free Asia reports that this discontent is taking the form of defacing propaganda plastered all over the capital. “Graffiti attacks” against posters advertising the parade are increasingly common, according to sources in the country. Specifically, posters have been found with writing scribbled over the poster’s declaration of North Korea as “the victor”; the text was changed to “the defeated.” Radio Free Asia adds that defaced posters were first found in July, protesting local “elections.” The outlet also notes that, in addition to increased prices for goods, the government has been forcing households to make payments to “support training for a military parade” independent of purchases.

The parade, a South Korean official noted, is expected to consist of “large-scale mass games and demonstration of firepower are likely to be standout performances at the celebrations… and an air show is also expected.”

Defying the trend of the Obama administration in strengthening relations with rogue states like Iran and Cuba, several members of Congress are expected to present a bill Wednesday calling for further sanction on North Korea related to its rampant human rights abuses and military belligerence. “The policy of strategic patience has been a strategic failure,” Sen. Cory Gardner, who is set to introduce the bill, told Bloomberg News Tuesday. The bill seeks to punish North Korea for “including violations of United Nations resolutions, development of ballistic missile technology, illegal arms transfers, cybercrimes and espionage, human rights violations and much more.”