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NORTH KOREA 15 Apr 2012 North Korea celebrates founder’s birth centenary

North Korea plans to celebrate the 100th birthday of its founder, Kim il-Sung, with huge festivities and dramatic developments

April 15, 2012 - NULL

NORTH KOREA 15 Apr 2012 North Korea celebrates founder's birth centenary

North Korea plans to celebrate the 100th birthday of its founder, Kim il-Sung, with huge festivities and dramatic developments that could include a third nuclear test. There are rumors that Pyongyang is being rebuilt for the centenary of the "Eternal Leader," and more than a rumor that the regime plans to time the inauguration of new nuclear facilities for the big day. The impoverished country's currency devaluation in Nov 2009 could be paying the tab.

Pyongyang has carried out two nuclear bomb tests. Japan's Sankei Shimbun reported on

NORTH KOREA 15 Apr 2012 North Korea celebrates founder's birth centenary

North Korea plans to celebrate the 100th birthday of its founder, Kim il-Sung, with huge festivities and dramatic developments that could include a third nuclear test. There are rumors that Pyongyang is being rebuilt for the centenary of the "Eternal Leader," and more than a rumor that the regime plans to time the inauguration of new nuclear facilities for the big day. The impoverished country's currency devaluation in Nov 2009 could be paying the tab.

Pyongyang has carried out two nuclear bomb tests. Japan's Sankei Shimbun reported on Nov 17 that North Korea may be making preparations for a possible third nuclear test.

According to Reuters, Siegfried Hecker, a former chief of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and former United States nuclear envoy Jack Pritchard, have both visited the North recently and reported that Pyongyang was building a 25-30 megawatt reactor. Pritchard said he was told by an official that the North wanted to complete the reactor by 2012. The official added that all construction projects under way in Pyongyang are running towards a 2012 deadline to mark the centenary.

Analysts will be watching for messages in the type of events. They could center on a massive military parade like the one on Oct 2010 that marked the 65th anniversary of the Peoples' Workers Party, or the displays could be more pacific. Intricately choreographed dance and gymnastic routines, ideological lectures, art exhibitions, memorial ceremonies at the founder's tomb and massive flower shows can be expected if the regime chooses to back off from its saber-rattling.

The country's bellicosity, particularly in 2010, with the sinking of a South Korean battleship in March and an artillery attack on a South Korean island in November, have invested everything happening in the country with great interest for analysts: they explain some developments on the approaching centenary.

The rumored rebuilding project of Pyongyang, which was completely rebuilt after the Korean War, is more likely to involve sprucing up iconic landmarks: the tab is likely to be too high for razing the city and starting again.

The idea that devaluation was aimed at picking up the tab for the events has turned up in several media reports, most recently in an interview on National Public Radio on 10 Jul 2010 with Los Angeles Times reporter Barbara Demick. She noted that Pyongyang needed new money for the 2012 celebrations and other purposes and didn't have it. "By destroying the money supply [with devaluation], the government can print new money and use it for its own purposes," she added.

Kim il-Sung remains the country's "Eternal President" even while his son now leads. The founder ruled the country for four decades until his death in 1994. The two Kims are the focus of an intense cult of personality in the nation of 24 million people, and there are signs Kim Jong-un's image is also undergoing a makeover. (WRITTEN Nov 2010)

RELATED READING:

Satellite images support North Korea reactor claim (Reuters/SwissInfo 19 Nov 2010)
http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/news/international/Satellite_images_support_
North_Korea_reactor_claim.html?cid=28828976

North Korea's prosperity push could raise poverty (Reuters 12 May 2009)
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE54B1JW20090512

Views Show How North Korea Policy Spread Misery (NYT 9 Jun 2010)
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/10/world/asia/10koreans.html?pagewanted=all

North Korea's 'Currency Reforms' Hurt Thousands (NPR 10 Jul 2010)
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128614274

North Korea Nuclear Facility Disclosed (Huffington Post 21 Nov 2010)
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/21/north-korea-nuclear-facility-built-_n_786481.html

Japanese media allege NK preparing nuke test (The Korea Times 17 Nov 2010)
http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2010/11/113_76532.html

Date written/update: 2012-04-15