April 14, 2017 09:57
North Korea on Thursday hastily rounded up 200 foreign reporters in Pyongyang to observe the opening of Ryomyong Street, an avenue of glitzy high-rise apartments.
Reporters at first thought they were expected to cover a missile launch or military parade but found themselves confronted with nothing more dramatic than leader Kim Jong-un cutting the ribbon on the prestige project, where loyal members of the elite are to be housed.
The reporters, who are visiting the North for the 105th birthday of nation founder Kim Il-sung on Saturday, had been told to prepare for a "big and important event," but not even their minders knew what that was.
Japan's NHK aired footage of the tubby leader, dressed in a pinstripe Mao suit, cutting the ribbon and applauding, while his younger sister Yo-jong chatted in the background with security staff. It was perhaps the first time a foreign camera crew has captured footage of Kim up close.
Back to business as usual, Premier Pak Pong-ju then delivered a speech in which he claimed the opening of the street is more powerful than "hundreds of nuclear bombs."
A Los Angeles Times correspondent tweeted that the street is "impressive" and the skyscrapers lining it as "very modern" but pointed out that the thousands of soldiers massing in the capital "looked severely stunted. A reminder of widespread malnutrition outside of Pyongyang."
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