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Crowds Gather in P’yang for Workers` Party Convention

Posted September. 07, 2010 11:17,   


A festive mood is growing in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang ahead of the first convention of the ruling Workers’ Party in 44 years.

China’s official news agency Xinhua reported from Pyongyang Monday that the city streets were packed with tens of thousands of people participating in rehearsals for a ceremony marking the 62nd anniversary of the North’s foundation set for Thursday.

The people held colorful bouquets of artificial flowers and headed for Kim Il Sung Plaza in the city center.

Few cars were seen in the capital Sunday amid light rain caused by an approaching typhoon and because of a vehicle curfew excluding cars for use in public service and those for foreigners. Pyongyang’s central districts, however, were crowded with people heading for rehearsal sites with artificial flowers in their hands.

Cheil Department Store near Kim Il Sung Plaza was open for business, and traffic police were seen drawing lines in front of the store in apparent preparation for a major event. Nonetheless, Malaysian visitors got off tourist buses and took photos at a fountain near Mansudae Art Theater despite the rain.

The foreigner-only Koryo Hotel continued normal operations. A hotel staff member told Xinhua that Pyongyang residents were preparing to celebrate the 62nd anniversary of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Diplomatic sources in Beijing said it is quite unusual for Xinhua to report details of preparation of internal events in North Korea, including a gathering of the Workers’ Party.

Commentator Qing Hao, an expert on North Korean affairs, told Phoenix TV in Hong Kong, “If North Korean leader Kim Jong Il takes measures similar to China’s reform and market opening drive, the North could embrace the biggest revolutionary change in its 60-plus year history.”

“Kim’s trip to China late last month and his praise of China’s achievements on the 30th anniversary of its market reform and opening while visiting several Chinese companies will be somewhat related to the upcoming convention of the North’s Workers’ Party.”

The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the Workers’ Party, said Monday, “Our representatives (to attend the Workers’ Party convention) are arriving in the capital of Pyongyang.”

According to Between Our People, a Web Site operated by the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Fatherland, the daily carried the news in an editorial titled “The Great Leader,” which also said, “A major incident to open a significant new chapter in the history of our party has come.”

This is the first time for a North Korean media outlet to mention the schedule ahead of the third Workers’ Party convention.

On Oct. 4, 1966, the eve of the opening of the second convention, North Korean media reported, “Representatives arrived in Pyongyang on Oct. 3.”

Given news reports on the latest convention, this could mean that the event will open Thursday.

North Korean media reported that conferences were held in four regions – North and South Hamkyong Province, Kangwon Province and the city of Rason -- heralding the completion of the grand event’s preparation.

bonhong@donga.com kyle@donga.com