North Korean leader Kim Jong-il attended a mass rally in Hamhung, South Hamgyong Province to celebrate the dedication of the February 8 Vinalon Complex, which resumed operation for the first time in 16 years, the North Korean media reported Saturday.
For security reasons, Kim rarely shows up at outdoor rallies. A South Korean security official said this was the first time Kim ever attended an industrial mass rally. In the past, he sometimes attended only political or military events such as a military parade on the 55th anniversary of North Korea in September 2003 and another on the 75th anniversary of the North Korean Army.
The only time North Koreans heard his voice was at a ceremony marking the North Korean Army's anniversary in April 1992, when he uttered the single sentence, "Glory to the heroic soldiers of the People's Army!"
Rumors had it that even such a cry was a result of a "broadcasting accident" -- that his voice was inadvertently broadcast. Meanwhile, his voice was not heard at the latest mass rally.
[North] Korean Central TV and Central Broadcasting relayed a detailed recording of Kim's attendance at the mass rally in Hamhung which drew about 10,000 people.
Kim has taken an unusual interest in vinalon this year, a synthetic fiber North Korea has developed using carbide extracted from anthracite. It is called the "juche (self-reliant) fiber" in the North.
He visited the Hamhung plant for two days in early February and even invited Wang Jiarui, the director of the Chinese Communist Party's International Liaison Department, there for a meeting when he was on a state visit to the country.
Ryu Dong-ryeol, a researcher at the Police Science Institute, said, "Vinalon was a symbol of solutions to the clothing problem in the North in the 1960s and 70s. The North is now touting it to give the people the illusion of a better life."