North Korea celebrated the 110th anniversary of the birth of late founder Kim Il Sung on Friday with fireworks, a procession, and an evening gala in Pyongyang’s main square, with thousands of people in colourful traditional dress singing and dancing.

Nuclear-armed Pyongyang usually uses the holiday – known as the Day of the Sun – to show off its latest weaponry.

But while this year’s event follows a flurry of weapons testing – three weeks ago the country carried out its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test since 2017 – there was no sign of the usual military parade.


Leader Kim Jong Un visited his grandfather’s mausoleum and attended a “national meeting and a public procession” in Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung Square but gave no reported public remarks. A senior official spoke at the meeting, saying that North Korea would overcome all difficulties and always emerge victorious, state news agency KCNA reported.

State media aired live footage of an evening gala in the square after sunset on Friday, following concerts, art exhibitions, and ideological seminars.

There was also a light festival in the centre of Pyongyang, with dancing fountains and decorated boats on the Taedong River, KCNA said.

The festival “artistically depicted” Kim Il Sung’s native home and “the sacred mountain of revolution, Mt Paektu,” KCNA said. Residents could take photos in front of arches lit with phrases such as ‘Pyongyang Is Best’ and ‘We Are the Happiest in the World’.

“I came to see the lighting festival with my daughter. Looking at it today, it’s really cool. The most impressive thing in particular is this one that says ‘self-reliance’,” Ri Bom Chol, a 40-year-old doctor, told an AFP news agency reporter in Pyongyang.

‘Love is forever’

Analysts, along with South Korean and US officials, had widely expected North Korea to mark the occasion with new weaponry, or even a test of the country’s banned nuclear weapons.

Seoul-based specialist site NK News said analysis of satellite imagery suggested that training was taking place at the Mirim military parade training base, with a few thousand troops marching in formation. Images from Planet Labs had also shown an increasing number of tyre marks around a secure garage area for heavy weapons at the site, suggesting practice drives were taking place, it added.

Experts say April 25 – the anniversary of the founding of the North Korean army – is the next most likely date for the parade.