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N. Korea to stage biggest military parade ever amid power transition: source
SEOUL, Oct. 8 (Yonhap) -- North Korea will stage its biggest military parade ever this weekend, involving 20,000 troops, missiles and other flagship weapons to mark an anniversary of its ruling party serving as a conduit for the rise of its next leader, a source here said Friday.

   Sunday marks the 65th anniversary of the founding of the Workers' Party in the North. The South Korean source speaking on condition of anonymity said the North is also mobilizing 100,000 ordinary citizens to rehearse a mass rally for the anniversary while extravagant fireworks will be launched in Pyongyang.

   "North Korea is putting all its strength into heightening the mood" for the anniversary, which comes less than two weeks after leader Kim Jong-il's third son was unveiled to the world as a four-star general despite being only in his late 20s, the source said.

   South Korean officials believe Kim Jong-un, little of whom is known outside the North, is being groomed to take over the country if his 68-year-old father dies, a possibility that has loomed large since Kim Jong-il suffered a widely rumored stroke in 2008.

   In an interview with the Associated Press Television News based in Pyongyang, Yang Hyong-sop, a member of the political bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party made it official that Kim Jong-un would be succeeding his father.

   "Our people take pride in the fact that they are blessed with great leaders from generation to generation," he said.

   "Our people are honored to serve the great President Kim Il-sung and the great leader Kim Jong-Il," Yang said. "Now we also have the honor of serving young Gen. Kim Jong-un."

   Kim Jong-il inherited the North when his father, Kim Il-sung, who had founded the communist country, died in 1994. The country runs a massive cult of personality around the Kim family, decorating its members with prominent political and military stripes.

   On Aug. 28, Kim Jong-un was appointed as a vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party and a member of the Central Committee.

   The South Korean source said Kim Jong-un will likely make his appearance during the parade on Sunday. The man, who resembles his grandfather in facial features, has watched a live-fire army drill and a political concert since his debut last week.

   The parade is likely to be a burden on ordinary North Korean people as they are ordered to practice under a regimen that restricts their food and sleep.

   Many participants are said to faint or get injured while practicing mass performances in North Korea. The most notable one is the annual Arirang festival, a gymnastics extravaganza that mobilizes tens of thousands of kids and is a constant source of outside criticism over the human rights conditions in the North.

   The source said the military parade will be closely monitored because it may also feature newly developed or deployed missiles that the North invests heavily into developing.

   "Scores of tanks, armored vehicles and missiles are expected to be featured," the source said. "For some months already, the North has been preparing the parade by mobilizing up to 20,000 troops despite heavy rains and other unfavorable conditions."

   samkim@yna.co.kr
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