The Koryo Courier:
Parade Practice
in Pyongyang

Rally Rehearsals for April

Catch a taxi to the Fountainhead / blinking neon penny arcade / a young Caruso on the fire escape/ painted face ladies on parade. - The Band

Just about any time the DPRK makes it into the foreign news, reports will feature a photo or video of South Koreans watching South Korean news broadcasts about North Korea. If only that was all it takes to become a professional photographer! Another perennial favorite are accompanying images of images of soldiers and military material on parade through the streets of Pyongyang. The frequency of this imagery in the news would make on think that parades happen all the time.

Yet military parades in the DPRK are scheduled more like the Olympics or World Cup, happening once every 2-4 years. Showing a military parade about events in the country is a bit like showing the Star Spangled Banner played at a gold medal ceremony every time there is a Major League Baseball game. Yes, we are talking about America and sports, but beyond it is more than a bit incongruous. (For non-Americans out there, there are 162 games in a baseball season.)

North Korean parades often occur on 5-10 years anniversaries of major Korean holidays, so a May Day event in the style of the Soviet Union is very unlikely. The two most recent military parades occurred on July 27, 2013 and October 10, 2015, the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War, known as Victory Day, and the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the Korean Worker’s Party, respectively.

This April 15 is the 105th anniversary of the birth of President Kim Il Sung and April 25, 2017 is the 85th anniversary of the foundation of the Korean People’s Army. An official announcement has not yet been made and often confirmation may be pending until the start of the actual event. In October of 2015, the event was nearly called off due to poor weather and we spent six hours in suspense. Foreign tourists are not allowed to watch from Kim Il Sung Square but can wait for the paraders to exit the centre of the city

The wait, however, is well worth it for thousands of waving soldiers on hundreds of tons military machinery rumbling down the street: T-34’s, Katyusha Rocket Launchers, and their more modern colleagues. The local populace comes out en masse to thank and greet the soldiers with pom-poms and flowers.

Indications are good that there will be a military parade in April and the likely candidate is April 25. Last week we caught up with large-scale parade practice in downtown Pyongyang. By the looks of it, this year's parade will be a mixed event including both the military and civilians.

Koryo Tours' Army Day Minibreak Tour (April 24-27; from 1290 EUR per person) will likely offer the best chance to see a parade unfold this year.

Update: A military parade took place on April 15, 2017.

The Koryo Courier is a regular posting with the latest news from Koryo Tours.

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