10 Oct 2010

North Korea parade paves way for Kim Jong-un

North Korea’s leader-in-waiting Kim Jong-un has made his public debut during a massive show of the country’s military strength – featuring tanks, missiles and goose-stepping troops.

North Korea’s leader-in-waiting, the youngest son of ailing ruler Kim Jong-il, has taken centre stage at a massive military parade.

Kim Jong-un stood near his father, clapping and saluting thousands of goose-stepping soldiers, and reviewing missiles, tanks and artillery rockets.

The young Kim’s prominent role at the parade in Pyongyang marked his military “coming out”.

State television broadcast the parade live, giving North Koreans their first real look at their next leader.

Until his appointment as a general last month – along with his naming to a key political post – little was known about the young Kim other than that he was educated in Switzerland.

Read more: Kim Jong-il’s son promoted

North Korea's leader Kim Jong-il.

Kim Jong-il, 68, is believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008 but he has shown no sign of losing his grip on power and was reappointed last month as secretary-general of the ruling Workers’ Party.

He stood for over an hour during the parade and waved to the crowds. State television broadcast the parade live, giving North Koreans their first real look at their next leader, who is still in his 20s.

The young Kim, the third son of the ailing leader, is poised to continue dynastic rule in the isolated state which also has ambitions to develop nuclear weapons.

A stable succession would be a relief to North Korea’s economically powerful neighbours – China, South Korea and Japan. A regime collapse could result in massive refugee flows and domestic unrest.

Among the guests at the parade were foreign diplomats and Communist Party officials from China.

The secretive nation also invited foreign media to watch the parade which marked the 65th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party and gave the world its first independent look at the protege.

Kim Jong-il was greeted with thunderous applause and chants of “Long Live Kim Jong-il”.

Thousands of soldiers armed with machine guns, bayonets and swords marched to brass bands in the Pyongyang’s Kim Il-sung Square.

Defector death

Meanwhile, South Korean police say the highest-ranking North Korean official to have defected to the South has been found dead – but it is not likely that he was murdered.

Local media reported that Hwang Jang-yop, 87, a former North Korean Workers’ Party secretary appeared to have died of a heart attack at home.

'North Korea is deeply unfunny'
State TV glossed over Kim's lack of military experience when announcing his elevation to the rank of four star. They did say a major development was under way. Further details were not supplied and were not needed.

We know what's coming and can visualise the splendidly absurd parades to boot.

Humour has a habit of becoming the stock response to North Korea's extremes of totalitarian excess.

It is so other worldly, so disconnected from its population's slow starvation and decline, that is it comedy over tragedy. But this is the macabre deathlove of Dr Strangelove all over again: North Korea is deeply unfunny.

Read more from Nick Paton Walsh's blog