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North Korea commemorates birth of its founder

AFP  |  Pyongyang 

Thousands of North Korean devotees laid flowers before statues of the country's founder Sung today on

A constant stream of soldiers in brown uniforms, work unit personnel in suits, schoolchildren and families made their way to in the centre of Pyongyang, where giant statues of Kim and his son and successor look out over the capital.

"The great comrades Sung and Kim Jong will always be with us," read a banner made of greenery.

In turn each group approached the bronze edifices, most people with single blooms, some carrying golden baskets of flowers -- making their offerings before assembling in formation.

"Let us bow before the statues," intoned an half-hidden by horticulture, prompting deep bows from civilians and salutes from military detachments.

North Koreans are taught from an early age to revere their leaders, and portraits of the two late rulers gaze down in every home, school and workplace in the country.

Current is the third of the dynasty to head the isolated and impoverished but nuclear-armed country, whose calendar is packed with anniversaries relating to his two forefathers and their careers.

The accompanying rituals both demonstrate and reinforce loyalty to the regime. April 15, known as the Day of the Sun, is by far the most important and sometimes marked with a military parade, as it was last year.

Visiting the statues reinforced her determination to "realise the reunification of our country which the great leaders wanted" and "uphold the leadership of the respected Kim Jong Un", said Ryu Yong Jong, 25, who has been in the for nine years.

Ordinary North Koreans only ever express wholehearted support for their government when speaking to

Authorities held a mass meeting of senior officials on Saturday to mark the anniversary, one of a series of events tied to the date, but has spent some of the festive period on the current spate of diplomacy involving the two Koreas.

A summit with the South's Moon Jae-in is due later this month, ahead of talks with On Saturday Kim met visiting Chinese Song Tao, pledging to improve a traditional but battered relationship.

At a banquet for the delegation, one wall was decorated with a mural of Kim shaking hands with Chinese on his surprise trip to last month.

The journey was Kim's first overseas since inheriting power. It ensured that, rather than the South Korean or US presidents, the first foreign he met was the of the longstanding ally whose forces gave his grandfather crucial support in the Korean War.

The Day of the Sun has been described as "Like Christmas, but for Juche instead of Jesus", in reference to Sung's "self-reliance" ideology.

Guides at Mangyongdae outside Pyongyang, where Kim Il Sung was born 106 years ago, sometimes use religious terminology themselves, describing a well at the site as containing "holy water" and calling the day his "birthdaymas".

Kim remains the country's Eternal despite dying in 1994. His son passed away in 2011 but is of the ruling

Retired senior Won, 76, donned his old uniform for the occasion, his chest heavily bedecked with medals -- the most important, he said, being a gold star depicting a soldier, a and an airman for 30 years of service.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, April 15 2018. 12:35 IST