From Sept. 1, students at universities in Pyongyang began practicing for a mass parade to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the founding of North Korea’s communist party on Oct. 10, Daily NK has learned.

According to a Daily NK source in Pyongyang on Monday, students from each university in the city are holding practice sessions in “empty areas” on major streets in Pyongyang’s central districts.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Daily NK that up to 100,000 people will participate in the mass parade at Kim Il Sung Square. Students attending universities in Pyongyang are expected to march in columns during the event and even take part in “mass games” at the square.

Currently, students at the universities are attending lectures in the mornings and then practicing for the parade from 1 PM to 8:30 PM, the source said. According to him, the students are completely focused on the practice sessions: they are wearing their required uniforms and bringing flags inscribed with communist party insignia, colorful flower bouquets and drums to use during the training. 

“Students are being pushed to the limit with group practices on top of their regular lectures,” the source said. “By the time practice is over, they don’t get home until 10 or 11 PM, so many students are having a tough time and end up getting in trouble for dozing off during morning classes.” 

According to the source, the students will be taking morning classes and participating in afternoon practice sessions until Sept. 16. On Sept. 17, they will just be required to attend morning classes but have the rest of the day off. From Sept. 18, however, the students will no longer attend classes, nor will they be afforded time off during the weekends; instead, they will be required to participate in “intense training” at Kim Il Sung Square every day from 8 AM to 7 PM.

Although students are complaining of fatigue due to the already draconian schedule, they are reportedly practicing as hard as they can so they avoid falling or tripping during the parade on Oct. 10. 

Those in graduating classes, however, are reportedly unhappy about being forced to prepare for the event since they already have so much to do before graduation, including writing their theses. Students in the graduating classes of Kim Il Sung University and the Kim Chaek University of Technology are targets of envy by students in graduating classes in other universities in the city because they are not required to take part in the event preparations, the source told Daily NK. 

“The Central Committee and the Cabinet’s Ministry of Education [Ministry of Higher Education] ordered mainly first or second year students at Kim Il Sung University and Kim Chaek University of Technology to be mobilized for event preparations,” the source explained. “The graduating classes at these schools have been given extra space to prepare for graduation because they have a lot of students who are set to become Central Committee cadres.” 

A female military brass band performs for the 70th anniversary of the founding of the
Workers’ Party of Korea on Oct. 10, 2015. / Image: Yonhap

Political organizations at each university are reportedly barraging students with propaganda during the practice sessions. For example, the students are being instructed to “demonstrate unlimited loyalty to the Great Leaders” and to “do their best during the training” because Oct. 10 is the communist party’s “biggest event” of the year. 

This kind of ideological education is also a central part of weekly criticism sessions, where the students conduct self-criticisms and criticize others,” the source explained.

The same people who organized the mass parade to celebrate the country’s Foundation Day on Sept. 9, 2018, are managing the mass parade planned for Oct. 10, the source further reported. 

“The organizers of the 70th Party Foundation Day event in 2015 were originally supposed to be in charge of this year’s celebration,” the source said. “The general consensus, however, was that the 2018 event was better, so Comrade Kim Yo Jong ordered the creation of a new General Events Subcommittee made up of the people who planned that event, including members of the Central Committee’s Events Department and working-level staff from the Pyongyang Party Committee’s Propaganda and Agitation Department.” 

Alongside university students, Pyongyang citizens are also being brought in to prepare for the mass parade. These Pyongyangites are reportedly working hard in the practice sessions because North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will attend the event on Oct. 10. These Pyongyang residents would rather head to local markets to maintain their livelihoods, but they know that failing to participate in the event preparations will be treated as a “political issue” by the authorities, the source explained. 

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Ha Yoon Ah is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.