N. Korea set to hold military parade on eve of PyeongChang Olympics’ opening

February 8, 2018

SEOUL, Feb. 8 (Yonhap) — North Korea is set to hold a military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of its armed forces’ foundation Thursday, one day before the PyeongChang Winter Olympics’ opening.

North Korea has recently designated Feb. 8 as its armed forces’ day, sparking concerns that the event may dampen a rare reconciliatory mood created by its participation in the Feb. 9-25 Olympics in the South.

The North has used military parades on important national days to flex its military muscle by displaying newly developed weapons, including missiles.

North Korea set up the Korean People’s Army (KPA) on Feb. 8, 1948, and celebrated the date as the founding anniversary until 1977. But the following year, the country switched the anniversary to April 25, the date when the late founder, Kim Il-sung, created anti-Japanese guerrilla forces in 1932.

This image, captured from footage by North Korea's state TV broadcaster on April 15, 2017, shows North Korea's hosting of a military parade to mark the 105th birthday of late state founder Kim Il-sung. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)This image, captured from footage by North Korea’s state TV broadcaster on April 15, 2017, shows North Korea’s hosting of a military parade to mark the 105th birthday of late state founder Kim Il-sung. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

A Seoul government source said the latest event is expected to mobilize about 50,000 people, including some 13,000 troops.

South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon earlier said that the North may hold a “threatening” military parade on the anniversary by mobilizing sizable numbers of military personnel and almost all of its weapons.

The North has rebuffed such criticism, claiming that nobody has the right to take issue with its celebration of the military anniversary.

Some experts said that in the face of tough international sanctions, the North may stage a smaller-than-expected military demonstration in a bid to seek a chance for talks with the U.S. on the occasion of the Olympics.

The two Koreas have engaged in sports diplomacy since North Korean leader Kim Jong-un extended a rare olive branch to Seoul in his New Year’s message, after years of tensions sparked by the North’s nuclear and missile provocations.

On Wednesday the North offered to send Kim Yo-jong, the sister of Kim Jong-un, to South Korea Friday as a member of a high-level delegation for the Winter Games.

North Korea’s last parade in April marked the 105th birthday of the late state founder, Kim Il-sung.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr

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