Hundreds of thousands of people have gathered in public squares in North Korea to celebrate a century since the birth of the nation’s founder Kim Il-Sung.
The celebrations included an enormous fireworks display, and a parade of tanks through the capital Pyongyang that stretched for miles.
But the biggest treat for the masses gathered in Pyongyang’s main square was hearing their new leader, Kim Jong Un, speak in public for the first time.
Kim Jong Un used the speech to emphasis the need to maintain his nation’s military might. But he also took the opportunity to gloat over the destruction of the SS Titanic, the famous luxury liner that sank on the very day Kim Il-Sung, his grandfather, was born.
Kim recalled with relish the last moments of the doomed ship as it slipped under the waves “taking with it hundreds of decadent Westerners, on the very day my beloved heroic grandfather was born.”
He told the thousands gathered in the square that the occurrence of two such monumental events on the same day was no coincidence.
“Even as a newborn baby our nation’s heroic founder was active in pursuing capitalists to their graves”, said Kim.
Further lavish celebrations of the sinking of the Titanic had been planned by the regime, including the screening of James Cameron’s epic movie Titanic in public squares all around the nation. However, these were called off after initial screenings of the movie sparked riots and mass protests.
Kim did not refer to these troubles in his speech, but observers say Kim’s promise in his speech to increase the food ration to starving citizens is an acknowledgement that he is facing a crisis.
However, it is unclear whether the promise to increase the food ration from 500 gms to 800 gms of grass a day will satisfy a disaffected populace, and fears are growing that the situation may be beyond the regime’s control.
The North Korean news agency is reporting that the violence and protests arose as a result of “foreign infiltrators and spies fomenting disorder amongst the peaceful North Korean people”. But unofficial sources say the regime’s moves to celebrate the Titanic’s sinking was the last straw for a nation of people already hungry and in despair.
In one case a protester in North Korea’s second-biggest city, Hamhung, reportedly set himself on fire on the steps of the town hall in protest at his government’s actions.
“We have no food, no money, and no hope, and now you want to make us listen to Celine Dion?” the man reportedly shouted at officials before setting himself alight.