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View more articles by Chad O'Carroll
Chad O'Carroll has written on North Korea since 2010 and writes between London and Seoul.
Thousands of North Korean citizens gathered in Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung square on Sunday morning, NK News has learned from multiple informed sources, in what precedent suggests may have been a rally expressing support for leader Kim Jong Un’s recent ruling party plenum outcome remarks.
The local cellphone network was temporarily switched off during the gathering, sources said, a step North Korean security services often take when VIP leadership figures are appearing in public at rallies or military parades.
The streets and bridge near Kim Il Sung square had a heavy police and security presence, they added, with the event said to have finished sometime shortly after midday.
Though North Korean state media has yet to report on the gathering, precedent strongly suggests it was a mass political rally in which citizens pledged support for the country’s leadership and that coverage will appear on Monday.
DPRK authorities annually host a “Pyongyang mass rally” event within the first few days of January, at which citizens are typically reported – as in this 2019 example – to “resolve to thoroughly implement the important tasks Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un set forth in his New Year Address.”
Though Kim Jong Un doesn’t typically appear at the rallies, attendees are usually addressed by senior figures in the North Korean leadership.
Last year saw then-DPRK Premier Pak Pong Ju lead the event, joined by senior party and state officials and attendees including “officials from Party and government organs, industrial establishments and cooperative farms and labor innovators in Pyongyang.”
But with Pak having since stood down from that post, it is likely that Sunday’s rally may have been led by another official from the North Korean top brass, such as Vice Chairman of the State Affairs Commission (SAC) Choe Ryong Hae.
Sunday’s mass rally event is also notable because Kim Jong Un did not issue a new year address on January 1.
As a result, it is probable that citizens will have been directed to instead pledge support for his plenum outcome remarks, which on Wednesday indicated a shift back to military priorities and warned of forthcoming economic hardship due to sanctions.
North Koreans are typically required to memorize large excerpts from the leader’s beginning-of-year remarks in full.
Edited by Oliver Hotham