A midnight military parade in North Korea held early Thursday in celebration of the reclusive state’s 73rd anniversary included a marching crowd of people wearing hazmat suits and medical masks in an apparent attempt to portray a strong response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Photographs published by the ruling Workers’ Party newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, showed individuals lined together in medical gear, as well as soldiers holding rifles marching in the parade.
CNN reported that Rodong Sinmun listed marchers as members of North Korea’s "emergency disease prevention unit," along with marching bands, laborers and researchers.
North Korea celebrated the 73rd anniversary of its foundation with a night time military parade, state media reported, publishing photographs of marching rows of personnel in orange hazmat suits but no ballistic missiles https://t.co/ymLPu8DDk2 pic.twitter.com/XaXhG2q2kT— Reuters (@Reuters) September 9, 2021
Pyongyang has continued to say that North Korea has not had a single coronavirus case, though experts have cast doubt on the claims.
In 2020, the country imposed strict border closures amid the early months of the pandemic, and there have yet to be any indications of a major outbreak in the country.
While Reuters noted that some weapons were on display in the parade, including rocket launchers and anti-tank missiles, no ballistic missiles appeared to be present among the artillery.
North Korean Leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnSouth Korea urges Pyongyang to restore communication hotline North Korea open to another summit with South Satellite photos indicate North Korea expanding uranium enrichment MORE, who was pictured at the event hugging children and waving to crowds, did not deliver a speech, in contrast to last year when he delivered an address defending the country’s nuclear weapons capabilities.
News outlets also noted that Kim appeared visibly slimmer in photos from the parade, appearing to confirm a June state media report that he had lost weight.
Reuters reported that the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) wrote of the parade early Thursday, “The columns of emergency epidemic prevention and the Ministry of Public Health were full of patriotic enthusiasm to display the advantages of the socialist system all over the world, while firmly protecting the security of the country and its people from the worldwide pandemic.”
In June, KCNA reported that Kim had fired several senior government officials who he said failed to enforce the country’s COVID-19 prevention strategy.
Kim at the time reportedly lashed out at officials during a Workers’ Party meeting, accusing them of neglecting their duties and causing a “grave incident” that posed a “huge crisis” for the nation.
It was not clear at the time what incident to which Kim was referring.