North Korea has delayed a large-scale training exercise for an important military parade  amid concerns over COVID-19, Daily NK has learned.

The training was originally set to be held in mid-May to prepare for the Oct. 10 military parade, but has now been delayed until July. This year’s Oct. 10 marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of North Korea’s communist party, the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK).

A Daily NK military source reported yesterday that the order to delay the training was handed down on May 12 by the North Korean military’s General Staff Department.

The order is considered unusual because drills to prepare for the October parades are typically held at Pyongyang’s Mirim Airport starting in April.

Daily NK’s source suggested that the delay order may be aimed at keeping people from entering Pyongyang as part of broader efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“The General Staff Department did not provide specific reasons for the delay,” the source explained. “Mirim Airport is somewhat on the outskirts of Pyongyang, but military leaders probably thought that having some 23,000 soldiers filing into the area would be too much to handle, particularly since the authorities are still stressing the need to fight the disease.”

The General Staff Department did order, however, individual military units to “strengthen” their “column marching” drills and that the units need to prepare “backup participants” for the parade. This last directive seems to stem from the worry that there could be injuries during summer drills for the event.

“The large-scale parade training in Pyongyang has been delayed, but military units are still conducting intense drills to prepare for it,” the source said. “There are many soldiers having a tough time because they have to wear masks [during the drills]. Military medical officers are monitoring their health.”

Students at military and political universities in the country planning to participate in the October parade are also in the midst of preparations. They are reportedly going to lectures in the mornings but have to participate in drills during the afternoons in accordance with the leadership’s desire to “ensure the success of the military parade even if it impacts learning.”

Another source in the country also told Daily NK that a mass rally in Pyongyang with 100,000 participants will be held from mid-August. Government agencies, local district offices, inminbans (the country’s lowest administrative unit) and various party organizations are reportedly preparing flower bouquets, clothing and other items for the march.

*Translated by Violet Kim

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