N Korean leader commemorates Korean War dead

Reuters, PYONGYANG

Fri, Jul 26, 2013 - Page 6

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un yesterday presided over a commemoration at a war cemetery as the country prepares to mark the 60th anniversary of what it sees as its victory in the Korean War with defiance of old enemy the US.

Kim, the grandson of North Korea’s founding father who launched the Korean War, former North Korean leader Kim Il-sung, did not speak at the ceremony, but members of the large crowd who attended poured scorn on their foes.

“The survivors of the war heroes here can beat the Americans to death on our own,” said Kim Bu-ok, who fell to her knees in tears when she approached her father’s grave.

“We can crush those bastards no matter how hard they try, and I want the world to know this. As soon as those Americans even stick up their heads, we’ll stomp them to dust,” she said.

North Korea has been staging nationalistic tributes to its “Eternal President” Kim Il-sung ahead of the anniversary tomorrow of the armistice that ended the 1950-1953 war.

North Korea calls July 27 its “Day of Victory in the Great Fatherland Liberation War.” It blames the US military presence in South Korea for confrontation on the Korean Peninsula.

Kim Jong-un, who leads the North as first secretary of the Workers’ Party, was welcomed at the ceremony with cheers from thousands of people, many of them family members of those buried at the cemetery on the outskirts of Pyongyang.

Banners were strung up with slogans, such as “Glory to the warrior heroes who did their part in the liberation of the homeland.”

Kim was accompanied by North Korea’s power couple: his aunt, Kim Kyong-hui, the 67-year-old daughter of the founding leader, and her husband, Jang Song-thaek, widely considered the second-most powerful man in the North and the political mentor to the youthful leader.

It was the mysterious aunt’s first public appearance since May. Her absence had fueled speculation in South Korean media that she may be ill, which could have serious implications for Kim Jong-un’s grip on power.

Under a sunny sky and in sweltering heat, Kim led a ribbon-cutting ceremony and paid his respects to the dead.

He was flanked by top officials, including North Korean Premier Pak Pong-ju and a key aide, Choe Ryong-hae, who heads the military’s political apparatus.

North Korea has used the anniversary to underscore its defiance of UN sanctions, imposed for its nuclear and missile tests, and its resolve in light of a perception of chilling ties with its sole major ally, China.

Another visitor at the cemetery, air force pilot Ryang Chang-hyok, said he had complete confidence in his leaders and was ready to take up the legacy of his father, who flew against US forces in the Vietnam War, if ordered.

“No plane flown by the American or South Korean bastards will enter the skies of the fatherland,” Ryang said.