N. Korea expected to mark birth anniv. of state founder on scale similar to previous years

SEOUL, April 12 (Yonhap) — North Korea is expected to hold smaller-scale celebrations for the birth anniversary of late founder Kim Il-sung this week just as it did in previous years, Seoul’s unification ministry said Monday.

Thursday marks the 109th birth anniversary of Kim Il-sung, the late grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un. The anniversary, referred to in the North as the Day of the Sun, is the country’s biggest national holiday and has often been marked with massive military parades and other cultural and sports events.

“North Korea has usually organized sizable events every fifth anniversary but this year does not belong to one of them,” Lee Jong-joo, the ministry’s spokesperson, told a regular press briefing. “It appears that the North is preparing events on a scale usually seen in years other than fifth anniversaries.”

This year’s celebrations still could be larger than those of last year, when the North canceled almost all major events as it struggled to fight the global coronavirus pandemic, the spokesperson said.

State media earlier reported that the North will hold a large-scale sports competition among athletes, students and workers from each province to celebrate this week’s anniversary. The sports event was canceled last year apparently due to concerns over the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, with regard to any possibility of military provocations, including missile tests in time for the anniversary, Lee said the ministry is closely watching any relevant developments, but it has nothing to confirm at this moment.