Kim Jong Gun: North Korean generals pose like gangsters alongside their leader with pistols awarded to them to mark Korean War armistice anniversary
- The two hostile nations held contrasting events to mark the occasion on Monday
- North Korea released a picture of Kim Jong Un flanked by gun-toting generals
- Despite North Korea reporting its first Covid-19 infection, none wore a mask
- Meanwhile in the South, socially-distanced war veterans attended an event during which a General described the war as ‘a great tragedy in human history’
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un was shown Monday surrounded by generals posing like gangsters holding commemorative pistols awarded to them to mark the anniversary of the Korean War armistice.
Meanwhile in the South, masked veterans marked the occasion with a socially distanced ceremony as the two sides separately held memorials for the armistice that ended hostilities in 1953.
The contrasting events marked 67 years since the ceasefire that left the peninsula divided and millions of families split by the Demilitarized Zone.
In the North’s capital, Kim handed out commemorative pistols to dozens of generals and senior officers, who pledged their loyalty to him, state media reported.
Over the weekend, The North reported its first suspected case of novel coronavirus infection – after insisting for months it had kept itself free of the disease that has swept the world – but pictures showed the generals all gathered close together for a group photo, none of them wearing masks.
On the 67th anniversary of the Korean War armistice in 1953, North Korea released the above image showing the nation’s leader – Kim Jong Un – surrounded by gun-toting army generals and senior officers. The guns were awarded to them to mark the occasion
In Seoul, scores of veterans – in facial coverings and socially distanced seats – attended a ceremony paying tribute to their efforts, themed ‘Days of Glory’.
On screen, dramatic reconstructions of the war were interspersed with interviews with foreign veterans, and messages of support from current leaders of the countries that sent troops to support the South, among them US President Donald Trump and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.
Millions of people were killed during the three-year conflict – which began 70 years ago in 1950 when the Communist North invaded the US-backed South as leader Kim Il Sung – grandfather of the incumbent – sought to reunify by force the peninsula Moscow and Washington had divided at the end of World War II.
The Chinese and Soviet-backed North fought to a standstill against the South and a US-led United Nations coalition.
Despite the North reporting its first case of the coronavirus, the generals, pictured above with Kim Jong Un, were seen standing close together and in close proximity with the country’s supreme leader
Kim Jong Un has made a limited number of public appearance in 2020. Speculation regarding the dictator’s health was rife earlier in the year, while some have suggested Covid-19 has spread widely in the country, and that he is doing what he can to avoid catching it. Above, generals to the left of Kim Jong Un avoid pointing their handguns at him
Despite the first reported case in the country, Kim Jong Un and his generals did not wear face masks in the photos provided by the country’s state news agency. Above, Kim Jong Un visits the Fatherland Liberation War Martyrs Cemetery in Pyongyang to mark the 67th anniversary of the ‘Day of Victory in the Great Fatherland Liberation War’, as it is known in The North
Hostilities ended on July 27, 1953 with a ceasefire that has never been replaced by a peace treaty.
The North has subsequently built up a nuclear arsenal that it says it needs to protect itself against a US invasion, and has been subjected to multiple international sanctions as a result.
Pyongyang regards the conflict – which it calls the Glorious Fatherland Liberation War – as a victory and the official news agency KCNA reported that Kim presented his generals at the weekend with ‘commemorative pistols bearing his august name in token of his trust’.
Meanwhile in South Korea, at a ceremony in Seoul on Monday, Korean War veterans attended a ceremony to mark the 67th anniversary of the armistice, and were seen socially distancing from one-another while wearing masks
Pictured: Members of a military honour guard hold the flags of participating nations during a ceremony of UN Forces Participation Day on July 27, 2020 in Seoul
Seoul’s futuristic Zaha Hadid-designed Dongdaemun Design Plaza (pictured) saw dramatic reconstructions of the war interspersed with interviews with foreign veterans, and messages of support from current leaders of the countries that sent troops to support the South
The weapons were named after Mount Paektu, the dormant volcano on the Chinese-Korean border that is regarded as the spiritual birthplace of the Korean people.
In the pictures, the chief of the general staff Vice Marshal Pak Jong Chon, who was sitting to Kim’s right, carefully pointed his pistol upwards rather than towards the leader.
In Seoul’s futuristic Zaha Hadid-designed Dongdaemun Design Plaza, General Robert Abrams, the commander of UN Command and US Forces Korea, said the war was ‘a great tragedy in human history’ that ‘left the Korean peninsula in rubble’ and ’caused immense suffering for the Korean people’.
The US stations 28,500 troops in the South and he added: ‘Freedom is not free and neither is peace.’
Kim Jong Un has been seen in public only a handful of times this year amid speculation of poor health, or that he is trying to avoid catching coronavirus, which observers believe has been spreading widely in North Korea for some time despite official denials.
North Korea has reportedly received thousands of coronavirus testing kits from Russia and other countries, and imposed strict border closures, with the country being almost totally closed off since January 30.
Thousands of people in North Korea were quarantined, but restrictions had recently eased, however on Wednesday, it emerged that North Koreans will reportedly be subjected to three months of hard labour for not wearing Covid-19 face masks under tough new rules.
In July, Kim Jong Un ended a month-long absence from public view as he appeared at a meeting of the country’s political bureau, during which he praised North Korea’s ‘shining success’ in fighting coronavirus.
North Korea puts city into lockdown and points finger at South blaming its nemesis on the secretive nation’s ‘first coronavirus case’
North Korea is seizing on the return of a defector from the South to point the finger at Seoul for the arrival of coronavirus in the country after months of denying it had any cases, analysts said Monday.
Pyongyang imposed a lockdown on the border city of Kaesong, saying it had found a suspected COVID-19 infection in a defector who had returned across the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone that divides the peninsula, state media reported at the weekend.
For months the North had denied having any cases of the virus that swept the world after first emerging in neighbouring China – its main diplomatic backer and trade partner – raising scepticism among observers.
And Seoul officials said Monday that the man believed to be the re-defector has never been confirmed as a coronavirus patient in the South, nor a contact of a confirmed case.
The South has carried out more than 1.5 million tests as part of an extensive ‘trace, test and treat’ model that has largely brought the outbreak under control.
On Saturday, North Korea released images of Kim Jong Un hosting a committee of the country’s top officials to discuss the country’s ‘first coronavirus case’ (pictured)
Analysts said the North was likely to have already had virus cases, and Pyongyang was looking to blame Seoul for the outbreak, rather than its own longstanding ally Beijing.
‘North Korea may try to use the defector’s return to deflect the blame for an outbreak that has already occurred, or for any future quarantine failures,’ said former US government North Korea analyst Rachel Lee.
‘It could take issue with South Korea’s poor frontline security,’ she told AFP. ‘It could even claim that South Korea purposefully sent the defector back to North Korea to spread the virus there.’
Duyeon Kim, a Korea expert at the International Crisis Group, added that by blaming an imported case from the South, the North ‘can now legitimately and openly accept’ aid from Seoul.
The North could ‘further send a message about defectors painting them as enemies of the state’, she added in a tweet.
Pyongyang has repeatedly excoriated leaflet-sending defectors and the Seoul government in recent weeks, worsening already frozen inter-Korean ties and culminating in the North blowing up a liaison office on its side of the border.
It is extremely rare for North Korean defectors to return to their original country, where rights groups say they face severe punishment for leaving – the South’s Unification Ministry says only 11 are known to have done so in the last five years.
It is even rarer for them to travel through the Demilitarized Zone, one of the world’s most secure borders, replete with minefields and guard posts.
But the South Korean military said a North Korean defector was believed to have returned to the North from Ganghwa island, on the Han river estuary northwest of Seoul.
North Korea said that a person crossed illegally from The South with symptoms of coronavirus, saying it was the country’s first case. The South has denied this version of events. Above, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (centre) holds an emergency enlarged meeting of Political Bureau of WPK Central Committee
He was not officially identified but according to multiple media reports and defectors he is a 24-year-old who defected in 2017, also by swimming across a river.
He is being investigated on rape allegations in the South, they added.
Last month he appeared on a YouTube channel run by another defector, and said it took him more than seven hours to swim across the inter-Korean border when he went south.
Afterwards, he ‘cried for 10 days, as I kept on thinking about my family’ back home, he said in the interview.
Seoul’s health authorities said his name did not appear in the South’s database of confirmed coronavirus cases, nor its list of their contacts.
Two individuals who had contact with the suspected re-defector were tested on Sunday and both tested negative, added Yoon Tae-ho of the Central Disaster Management Headquarters.
The North’s medical infrastructure is seen as woefully inadequate to deal with any epidemic and Pyongyang closed its borders in late January – the first country in the world to do so – in an effort to protect itself against the coronavirus.
The situation in Kaesong ‘may lead to a deadly and destructive disaster’, official news agency KCNA reported at the weekend.
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