North Korea initially prepared for a military parade marking late national founder Kim Il Sung’s 110th birthday anniversary on Apr. 15, but the event has been expanded to include late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s 80th birthday anniversary on Feb. 16.
Due to economic and logistical reasons, North Korea appears intent to hold one extravagant event for both occasions, rather than two successive military parades.
“At first, military parade preparations were being made for the Day of the Sun [Kim Il Sung’s birthday],” a Daily NK source in North Korea reported on Jan. 25. “Recently, however, the General Political Bureau’s General Staff Department stated that because the Day of the Shining Star [Kim Jong Il’s birthday] is before the Day of the Sun, preparations are to be made for one military parade to serve both occasions.”
In short, an order was issued for the preparation of a military parade to celebrate both Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung’s birthdays at once given that they are not too far apart.
Daily NK reported in June 2021 that North Korea was preparing for its largest military parade to date (with over 38,000 participants) to mark Kim Il Sung’s 110th birthday anniversary this year.
At the time, Daily NK’s source claimed that the military’s General Staff Department issued an order to the training departments of each service and military academies detailing “plans for recruiting and training soldiers to participate in a commemorative military parade to mark the 110th Day of the Sun.”
Based on new information Daily NK acquired from a source in the country, however, the military parade was recently changed to include a celebration of Kim Jong Il’s birthday as well.
“At the time [in 2021], it was not clear what the schedule or aims of the event were to be,” the source said. “The [recent] order handed down in regards to training for the military parade makes clear that the event will commemorate both leaders’ birthdays.”
Recently, North Korea designated the period between Feb. 16 and Apr. 25 the “greatest celebratory period of the nation.” This may be the reason why the military parade will commemorate the birthdays of both leaders.
North Korea is suffering from the economic difficulties caused by sanctions and the closure of its borders due to COVID-19. Despite these difficulties, preparations for the military parade have continued since 2021 and are consuming a significant amount of resources.
“A significant number of military personnel have been replaced due to accidents or disease during training for the military parade over such a long period of time,” the source said. “Soldiers are being discharged from the military for medical reasons such as disease, malnutrition, and lack of physical strength.
“Compared to the past, the supply chain has taken a significant hit because of back-to-back military parades,” he further explained, adding, “There is a lack of the most basic of disinfection supplies, with soldiers being told to use salt on any wounds they suffer.”
North Korea not only lacks the time to host two military parades in close succession, but also faces the problem of having a limited number of military weapons to put on display.
These issues appear to have pushed the North Korean leadership to combine two military parades into one during the “celebratory period.”
Daily NK was unable to ascertain when exactly this military parade will be held.
Following the decision to hold one parade, North Korea is putting a great deal of effort in providing supplies to soldiers participating in the parade, despite a lack of resources.
“The Ministry of Defense’s logistics bureau supplied confectionaries to the logistics departments of each military unit in the parade after receiving packed rations from a confectionery factory,” the source said. “The state is also providing garments, ceremonial dress and innerwear, along with footwear and equipment for the parade.
“Some military units have been fed four times a day when they had night-time training,” he further reported, adding, “Although the authorities did not force people to donate supplies, military units have demanded that soldiers’ families donate money.”
The source also claimed that the upcoming military parade will be focused on “displaying North Korea’s power” and “revealing new weapons.”
“All branches of the military, plus the Strategic Force, military universities, and education institutions will be mobilized,” he explained, adding, “The leadership intends for new weapons to be placed in the parade grounds for a show of power.”
North Korea launched hypersonic missiles on Jan. 5 and Jan. 11, a ballistic missile on Jan. 14 and Jan. 17, and a cruise missile on Jan. 25.
North Korea may be expediting missile tests in order to showcase missiles that are nearly-complete at the military parade. This would suggest that the country is busily working to improve its negotiating position with the US.