Subdued celebrations for Party Foundation Day, emphasis placed on warming ties with China

South Korean President Moon Jae In met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the headquarters of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea in Pyongyang on September 18. Image: Pyongyang Press Corps Pool

Despite being one of the country’s major holidays, North Korea did not hold any special celebrations to commemorate the establishment of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) on October 10. North Korean officials did, however, display some differences from past years in emphasizing Sino-North Korean friendship and refraining from criticizing the US and South Korea.

On October 10, the Rodong Sinmun published an editorial entitled “[We] will only achieve victory and honor under the banner of solidarity.” The emphasis on solidarity toward the regime departs little from the editorials published in the previous two years.

“[We] must achieve the power of solidarity in the full march to achieve the Party’s new strategic policy,” the editorial reads. “Armed with the do-or-die resolution of unconditionally following the orders of the Party, all government officials, Party officials and workers must display the power of solidarity in the grand march of economic construction.”

Emphasizing the spirit of self-sufficiency and scientific technology, the editorial adds that “[We] must more speedily work to achieve the strategic objectives of the five-year Jungsan Charge Movement (a new mass movement that was announced in August 2018 emphasizing solidarity to achieve the nation’s five-year development plan).”

Unlike previous years, the Rodong Sinmun ran an article on its front page that reported that the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee sent a basket of flowers to commemorate October 10, along with a photo. In the previous two years, the newspaper did not publish the full text of the celebratory messages North Korea received from China.

Further emphasizing the atmosphere of friendship between North Korea and China, the newspaper also published an article that said that the two countries exchanged opinions regarding sports-related exchanges and cooperation and that the two countries had held an event regarding such exchanges.

Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported previously that North Korea’s Ministry of Sports had invited the head of China’s General Administration of Sport, Gou Zhongwen, to North Korea and the delegation arrived in Pyongyang on October 8. KCNA also reported that, “In a period where the Sino-Chosun relationship is at a new, advanced stage of strengthening and development, the visit of the Chinese sports delegation to Chosun will contribute to the strengthening of the bilateral exchanges and cooperation in the sphere of sports and advance the brotherly friendship of the two country’s peoples.”

It has been reported that Yao Ming, a Chinese basketball superstar who retired from the US National Basketball Association (NBA) in 2011, visited North Korea as head of the delegation in his capacity as head of the Chinese Basketball Association.

A friendly match took place on October 9 between Chinese and North Korean basketball players in Pyongyang. Image: Rodong Sinmun

In another change from last year, the October 10th edition of the Rodong Sinmun did not feature any articles or editorials that directly criticized South Korea or the US. Along with continuing to improve inter-Korean relations, North Korea appears to be aiming to maintain an atmosphere of dialogue by refraining from criticizing the US as its negotiations over denuclearization with the US seem to be emerging from a period of stagnation.

Last year, in regards to the rotational deployment of American strategic assets near the Korean Peninsula, the newspaper published an article entitled, “The ludicrous statements that show the true face of those destroying peace” that severely criticizes the US saying, “The rotational and expanded deployment of American strategic assets led by the US and its puppets is a serious military provocation and a very dangerous development aimed at placing the Korean Peninsula into the fiery cauldron of a nuclear war.”  

The newspaper criticizes President Donald Trump by name in the article and indirectly criticizes South Korean President Moon Jae-in, calling him the “South Chosun leader.”

On October 10, North Korean Party and government officials visited the Party Founding Museum, and members of the Chosun Women’s Alliance and university students held a celebratory event to honor the anniversary. South Korean Ministry of Unification spokesman Paek Taehyun told reporters in regards to these celebrations that, “We understand that North Korea is conducting visits to meaningful sites and holding cultural events to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of the founding of the Party on October 10.”

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