RESIDENTS thronged the wide boulevards of North Korea’s capital Pyongyang on Wednesday, some practising for a parade to be held at the weekend, with no visible signs of the tensions engulfing the region over the isolated state’s weapons progrNammes.
A United States aircraft carrier group is headed to Korean waters amid concerns Pyongyang may conduct a nuclear or long-range missile test and threats from US President Donald Trump of unilateral action “to solve the problem”.
It was a sunny, spring morning in Pyongyang and many people were on the streets around the city’s biggest sights, the Arch of Triumph and Kim Il Sung Square. Some of them spoke to Reuters journalists, who were escorted by North Korean officials.
“I am a normal citizen, so I don’t concentrate on politics too much,” said a woman who gave her name as Ri Hyon Sim.
“But one thing is very, very clear, as long as we are with our supreme leader Marshall Kim Jong Un we are not afraid of anything.”
North Korea has invited foreign media this week to cover celebrations of the 105th birth anniversary of founding president Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of current leader Kim Jong Un. However, journalists’ movements are closely managed and conversations with the people are monitored.
As Ri spoke, women in flowing pink, red and yellow dresses walked by after dance rehearsals for a performance likely on Saturday when a parade is expected to celebrate Il Sung’s birthday. North Korea also often marks important anniversaries with tests of its nuclear or missile capabilities.
Hyon Un Mi, a tour guide at the Arch of Triumph, built to commemorate Korean resistance to Japanese occupation in the early 20th century, said she was following events on television and in newspapers.
She called the US an imperialist power that wanted to occupy her country.
“Our people don’t like these imperialists … In recent days, they want to occupy our country again and again,” she said.
“The president of the US….,” Hyon said, tailing off with a shrug and a grimace.
North Korea remains technically at war with the US and its ally South Korea after the 1950-1953 Korean conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.
Hyon, however, said she wanted reunification between North and South Korea.
“Our people are suffering from the division,” she said, adding she was distressed watching a women’s football match between the two Koreas last week. The match ended in a 1-1 draw.
“All the people feel very sad watching the football, our country divided into two,” she said.