Korea’s weekend celebration marking the 70th anniversary of its central
political party could turn out to be one of the biggest military parades
ever for the country, according to analysis of satellite images.
The anniversary, which in essence celebrates the founding of the North
Korean state, is expected to go all out in terms of showing its military
muscle, along with mass dancing and in-synch marching. The spectacle is
supposed to be a showcase of loyalty and support for its leader, Kim
The preparations for the Workers’ Party of Korea anniversary appear to
have begun as early as May, when satellite images captured approximately
45 tents assembled at a former Pyongyang airbase, according to an
analysis posted on website 38 North.
By October, that area had swelled to about 800 tents, 700 trucks and
200 armored vehicles, with people appearing to move in formations
"possibly in preparation for the parade," wrote Joseph Bermudez Jr, an
analyst on North Korean affairs.
He concluded that "regardless of whether ballistic missiles are
present or not, (it) will be one of the largest in North Korea’s
The parade, expected to take place Saturday, is one of North Korea’s
most significant holidays -- next to the birthdays of the country’s
founder Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong Il.
"We want to celebrate in the most significant way," Sin Un Gyong, a
North Korean student told CNN’s Will Ripley in Pyongyang.
It’s one of the few dates that the North Korean leader can be expected
to make a public appearance. Although last year, Kim didn’t show during
an extended, mysterious absence that lasted over a month.
The Workers’ Party of Korea is the political party that governs and
runs North Korea.
"The Workers’ Party is the locus of power in North Korea," Sung-Yoon
Lee, professor of Korean Studies at Tufts University. "The party runs
It was founded 70 years ago, after World War II and following the end
of the Japanese occupation of Korea. With the Korean peninsula in
disarray, a group chaired by Kim Il Sung in the Soviet-occupied northern
part formed the Communist political party that came to be known as the
Workers’ Party of Korea.
Kim held control of the party, and membership became highly coveted as
it meant better job prospects, status and quality of life for elite
His heirs, son Kim Jong Il and grandson Kim Jong Un, have held the
central role in the party, although their official titles have all
differed. Kim Jong Un retains the title of first secretary of the
Workers’ Party of Korea.
"We have this notion that it’s the military calling the shots," Lee
"It isn’t. It’s actually the party controlling the military. In the
simplest sense, the party makes all key personnel decisions in the
military, who gets promoted, who gets executed.
"Because the party is so central to the system hierarchy, the 70th
anniversary is very important and I think North Korea has an internal
and external need to use this occasion to show off and to show the world
and U.S. its weapons with mid or long-range capabilities."
Foreign dignitaries, media and tourists are gathering in Pyongyang for
the spectacle. China’s Liu Yunshan, who is one of the top leaders of the
Chinese Communist Party, is expected to attend, according to North
Korean state media KCNA.
North Korean media has also been full of its usual listings of gifts
and congratulatory messages from its international friends.