Health workers wearing gas masks and red hazmat suits. Military search dogs and goose-stepping trainers. And a slimmed down, beaming Kim Jong Un in a business suit. The parade marking North Korea’s celebration of its 73rd anniversary was a marked departure from past militaristic displays, with a domestic audience worried about the pandemic likely in mind.
Kim was visibly slimmer than at the start of the year, having lost a good deal of weight several months ago. Experts say the weight loss is likely an attempt to improve his health, rather than a sign of illness, since he has continued his regular public activity.
There had been expectations that North Korea would show off missiles and other important weapons to pressure the Biden administration. But the parade shows that North Korea is too preoccupied with its domestic problems to attempt to deliver provocative messages overseas, said Hong Min, an analyst at South Korea’s Institute for National Unification.
“The parade shows that the government felt a need to build unity domestically — the population is clearly suffering amid the pandemic and social complaints are likely building up,” said Hong.