While the world is tensely waiting for a possible 6th nuclear test in time for Kim Il Sung’s 105th birthday anniversary on Saturday, one of the most important holidays in the DPRK, the situation was quite different in Pyongyang.
In the U.S., Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and President Trump have openly suggested anticipatory self-defense against North Korea. In response, ruling party organ the Rodong Sinmun swiftly threatened to strike U.S. first if there is any sign of preemptive strike.
North Korea, too, has been flexing its muscles. On April 13, Kim Jong Un supervised a military drill in which special operations forces simulated striking a missile base as a countermeasure against Seoul’s pre-emptive strike plans.
In the midst of all this, more than 200 foreign journalists this week were invited to cover the major national holiday and, on Thursday, attend the official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of Ryomyong Street – a major construction project and one of the country’s priority goals for the year.
And despite North Korea’s threats of further nuclear tests and unilateral strikes against the U.S., Pyongyang residents seemed largely calm about the ongoing tensions embroiling the Korean Peninsula.
On Friday April 14, the eve of North Korea’s major national holiday, NK News spoke to Choi Jin Chol, a 26-year old Pyongyang resident currently working at the Institute of American Studies – a think tank linked to the DPRK Foreign Ministry.
Choi discussed his thoughts on Kim Il Sung’s birthday anniversary event, President Trump, and prospects for reunification.
NK News: How do you feel right now about April 15?
Choi Jin Chol: It’s a big anniversary: this is a very important year for our people and our fatherland. This is one of the important years for the five-year strategy for economic development.
Also, this Saturday, the 15th of April, is very important to our people… our people think this is the biggest celebration in the year, and we all like today. April is also spring, so we have good flowers and the temperature is also very nice.
“What Trump does doesn’t matter to me”
NK News: President Donald Trump has said a lot about the DPRK recently. How do you feel about the new U.S. president and the way U.S. policy is going right now?
Choi Jin Chol: I’m not quite aware of Trump, even though he is the president of the United States. I have no… information about him.
I know that after he became president, he made sanctions against our country, and that he ordered [his navy] to send the air carrier to the Korean Peninsula a few days ago: that’s not good. But…what he does doesn’t matter to me. We live a happy life and we don’t think he can do anything… what is he going to do?
“I don’t understand why South Korean youth don’t feel and don’t care about unification”
NK News: What are your hope for future relations between the DPRK and the U.S.?
Choi Jin Chol: People would like to have a good relationship with the U.S. but as the U.S. administration continue to place such sanctions and oppress our country, that makes our people feel bad. I am worried that such decisions by the administration will make relations worse.
NK News: In South Korea these days, people don’t care much about reunification. What’s the attitude in the DPRK? Is it still a goal?
Choi Jin Chol: We are really willing to help achieve the goal of the unification because unification is really good for our nation to develop faster and become more powerful. So reunification is our task for the new generation.
I don’t understand why South Korean youth don’t feel and don’t care about this. I think reunification is really important, because unity is power and strength.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity