North Korea is in preparations for the largest military parade in its history on Oct. 10, involving 23,000 soldiers, Daily NK has learned. Oct. 10 marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK).

An order regarding the military parade was handed down by the operations bureau of the military’s General Staff Department on Saturday, Daily NK military sources said on Tuesday. 

This move can be interpreted as North Korea’s attempt to demonstrate—both to its own public and the international community—the country’s ability to withstand the coronavirus pandemic through national unity, despite the fact that there are now more than 300,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide. 

“They’re planning the troop review on this unprecedented scale because they want to emphasize the fact that it is the founding day of the WPK, and to use the day to really drive home the point that the might of the WPK is the might of the people, and the glory of the WPK is the glory of the people,” one source told Daily NK.

BEATING COVID-19

Soldiers with past experience in military parades will reportedly be selected for the event. Emphasis in the selection process will also focus on physical features such as height. For example, only men who are taller than 170 centimeters and women who are taller than 160 centimeters will be selected.

“The party’s position is that the troop review must show the country in the best light, because the 75th anniversary is a meaningful, revolutionary holiday that has great significance for the fate of the North Korean people,” another source told Daily NK. 

“The original plan was to select the participants in January and February, but the coronavirus pandemic has delayed the process and left less time for training. This is likely why they will be prioritizing those with prior experience,” he added. 

Each military branch is currently selecting soldiers to participate in the military parade. The nominees will report to the command of their respective corps and finish practice drills for the parade over a period of around two months. 

Preparations for the troop review have also been accompanied by a propaganda campaign, Daily NK sources reported. 

“Military commanders are leading educational sessions where they stress that soldiers must all work hard and with intense political conviction to prepare for the troop review. They say that we must harness the power of our ideology, which tells us that COVID-19 cannot stop the march of revolution,” one source told Daily NK.

Following the propaganda education and training, soldiers selected for the parade will convene at the Mirim parade facility in Pyongyang by mid-May. From this point on, participants must devote themselves to a “general rehearsal” for the parade. 

The military parade will also involve military academy students, Daily NK sources said. 

“They have ordered military academies such as Kim Il Sung Military University to have their students march in troop formation, although students scheduled to graduate this year have been exempted from participating,” one source told Daily NK. 

WHAT THE MILITARY PARADE WILL BRING

Daily NK sources expressed uncertainty about how many Pyongyangites will show up to watch the military parade. 

“The authorities haven’t said anything about this yet,” one source said, adding that the authorities will likely start issuing orders to the general population about watching the event “around August,” two months before the military parade is set to take place. 

There is also speculation over whether the “new weapon” that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un emphasized during the WPK Central Committee plenary meeting last year will make an appearance during the military parade. 

“It’s likely that they’ll bring out the multiple rocket artillery system, given that the military parade is an important opportunity for the military to show off its weapons,” one source speculated. “It’s unlikely that they’ll bring out the new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) in the Pukkuksong series, which is still under development.”

Recent captures from commercial satellite imagery company Planet Labs show that the North Korea’s military had conducted troop review drills ahead of this year’s Army Day (Feb. 8). Ultimately, however, the day’s events were cancelled.

*Translated by Violet Kim

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

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Jeong Tae Joo is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. He focuses on North Korean military matters. Please direct any questions about his articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.