North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

WPRG Parade Commemorates 63rd Anniversary of Foundation

Kim Jong Il inviting Ri Yong Ho to take his place at the beginning of the Worker Peasant Red Guards' Parade held on the 63rd anniversary of the foundation of the DPRK

On the morning of 9 September (Friday), Kim Jong Il, members of the central leadership and Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n), attended a Worker-Peasant Red Guards’ [WPRG] parade in central Pyongyang.  According to KCNA and other DPRK media, “columns of commanders [and] Workers’-Peasants’ Red Guards of different provinces and complexes, Young Red Guards and mechanized columns lined up on Kim Il Sung Square, the venue of the military parade.” The parade also displayed howizters, anti-aircraft artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, as well as models of the WPRG’s Ural-type motorcycles with sidecars.

Central Military Commission Member and director of the CC KWP Military Department, Gen. Ol Il Jong, reports to VMar Kim Yong Chun prior to the start of the parade

NDC Vice-Chairman and Minister of the People's Armed Forces, VMar Kim Yong Chun delivers a speech prior to the start of the WPRG parade on 9 September

To Pyongyang watchers of all ages, this may have seemed an unusual event.  In certain contexts, 63 is a lucky number, but it carries neither any significance nor symbolism as an anniversary year.  The last military parade held on Foundation Day, which also consisted of the WPRG, occurred three (3) years ago.  The 2008 parade was particularly significant because of KJI’s medical-related absence from it.  He did not make any reported public appearances until October 2008.  The 2008 parade featured representatives of the Young Red Guards’ units of Kim Il Sung and Kim Chaek Universities; the 2011 parade included an unspecified group of the YRG without any explicit references to what educational institutions they represented.

Kim Jong Il talks with Kim Jong Un prior the start of the parade

The broadcast and video of the parade included several missed camera cues.

The 2011 parade was broadcast live on DPRK television.   In contrast to other #1 Events (such as the KWP’s 65th anniversary parade in October 2010) the production quality was inconsistent.  There were a number of unintended jump cuts.  Camera shots were cued before the photographers had an opportunity to set them up.  The audio of the music and speeches cut out several times.  The audience applauded prematurely over Kim Yong Chun (Kim Yo’ng-ch’un)’s congratulatory address.  There was also the sound (either prerecorded or from the audience) of cheering prior to KJI’s entrance music.  The production aesthetics revealed a few interesting images of KJI and the leadership.  During the parade KJI gestured to an aide in order to summon Gen. Kim Myong Kuk (Kim Myo’ng-kuk), chief of the General Staff Operations Bureau.  At another point, chief of the KPA General Staff, VMar Ri Yong Ho (Ri Yo’ng-ho) was talking to Kim Jong Un. Ri looked to his left and found KJI scratching his face.  Ri mistook this for a salute, put his arm up then quickly put it down.  Miscues among the mobilized audience and in the television production indicate that this event may have been hastily arranged (i.e. last minute).

Despite the technical trouble, the event likely attained its two primary objectives.   First, standing on a balcony for 45 minutes to an hour without any obvious assistance conveyed that Kim Jong Il remains at the country’s core power center, and that his trip to Russia and China during late August did not compromise his health.  Second, this represented another superficial accomplishment for his hereditary successor.  Smelling apple-based body washes, meeting Chinese officials and touring DVD factories are nice photo opportunities for Kim Jong Un.  But he does not have sufficient imagery at a national meeting or parade, lined up with members of the central leadership who are not in KJI’s immediate coterie.  When Kim Jong Il stepped out to the crowd, he was joined by KJU.  As KJI processed down the line, one could see behind him a camera crew scuttling over to capture KJU.  It is also possible that the parade had a built-in loyalty oath factor for members of the WPRG.

KJI talking to an aide during the event

Kim Jong Il confers with Gen. Kim Myong Kuk, chief of the KPA General Staff Operations Bureau, during the WPRG parade on 9 September

One interesting aspect of this parade were the subtle dynamic among the KPA’s two senior working officials.  Formal command channels may call for Kim Yong Chun, in his dual positions, to manage the parade.  KYC also delivered the address during the September 2008 parade.  His function at this year’s parade and presence with KJI during the Russia trip indicates that his influence remains intact, contrary to earlier speculation.  He may prove more effective ensuring support for KJU in the KPA.  When KJI appeared on the “tribune of honor,” Ri Yong Ho stood back while the other members of the central leadership took their places.  KJI stretched out his arm to invite Ri to his position.

KJI scratching his eye, which Ri Yong Ho mistakes for a salute

Kim Jong Il applauds at the conclusion of the WPRK parade on 9 September. Behind him to the left is commander of the KPA Navy, Jong Myong Do (Cho'ng Myo'ng-to)

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September 2011
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