SEOUL – North Korea discreetly commemorated on Friday the 76th anniversary of the birth of former supreme leader Kim Jong-il, one of the largest festivities in the Asian country, amid decreasing tensions between Pyongyang and Seoul.
As per tradition, the North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un paid a visit to the Kumsusan Sun Palace in the capital at midnight and solemnly placed a wreath in front of the embalmed bodies of his father and grandfather, Kim Il-sung, founder of both the country and the dynasty in 1948, according to the state agency KCNA.
The North Korean media reported that a floral basket in the name of Kim Jong-un was placed before the statues to Kim Jong-il, and that the supreme leader was accompanied by high-ranking Workers Party officials, but not military officers.
The South Korean Unification Ministry pointed out that this year the North has opted for a modest celebration of this important event, in contrast with the previous year.
In 2017, the so-called “Kwangmyongsongjol” (the Day of the Shining Star), which marked the 75th anniversary of Kim Jong-il, was celebrated with a flower festival “Kimjongilia” in Pyongyang, featuring an enormous mass dance in the square named after the former leader and a spectacular fireworks display.
Last year the regime extended the celebrations until Feb. 17, a few days after the assassination of the current leader’s half brother, and amid a time of escalating tension with the international community due to the regime’s ballistic missile launch, which prompted the United Nations Security Council to issue a unanimous condemnation.
On this occasion, the commemoration took place in an atmosphere of relative relaxation between Seoul and Pyongyang as a result of the North’s participation in the PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games, after agreements were reached between the two neighboring countries in January.
In addition to the North’s participation in the Olympics, this rapprochement brought about a historic visit of Kim Yo-jong, sister of leader Kim Jong-un, to the South as a member of a high-level delegation, which held a meeting in Seoul with the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, last weekend.
During that meeting, Kim Yo-jong invited Moon to Pyongyang to meet with the North Korean leader in what could be the first high-level encounter between the two Koreas’ leaders in more than a decade.