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North Korea's big parade: 'We have displayed the power of our military state'

After wrapping up its first Workers' Party Congress since 1980, North Korea celebrated with a highly choreographed parade in Pyongyang on Tuesday morning, featuring military-themed floats and an appearance by leader Kim Jong Un, who waved to thousands of madly cheering citizens in the capital’s central square.

It followed that up in the evening with another celebration – a mass dance rally featuring ballet, fan dances, acrobats and ballroom style numbers performed by thousands of people, and then a torchlight procession involving thousands of high school and university students.

The morning parade began with Kim Yong Nam, resident of the presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, addressing the crowd in the Soviet-style Kim Il Sung square, proclaiming that citizens of the authoritarian state were “excited to fulfill the decisions made at the 7th Party Congress” and had achieved great successes in the 70-day period of intense work leading up to the high-level political gathering.

“The U.S. and its followers imposed unprecedented sanctions on us and held giant military exercises to block our way,” he said. “But we have destroyed their intention and have achieved great victory during the 70-day struggle. The might of the country soared, and very advanced weapons were shown. We have displayed the power of our military state.”

As a military brass band played martial music, young men waving red fabric torches marched past the Grand People’s Study House, beneath two large portraits of Kim Jong Un’s grandfather and father, former rulers Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. “Let’s defend Kim Jong Un with our lives!” they shouted.

Other floats and banners bore slogans like “Regard the masses as first!” and “Let’s become rifles and bombs to defend great leader Kim Jong Un.” Wave after wave of women in colorful dresses and men in suits strode past the reviewing stand, fervently shaking plastic flowers and chanting “Long life!” to Kim Jong Un.

After about 30 minutes of parading, Kim Jong Un walked the length of the balcony above the reviewing stand, packed with delegates from the Party Congress in dark suits and military uniforms. Many had medals pinned to their chests. Kim waved to the crowds, basking in the display of adoration from the participants.

“So far I’ve participated in parades with President Kim Il Sung and dear leader Kim Jong Il,” said one man, Kim Jong Nam, who was among the thousands of citizens who rose at dawn and made their way to the square for the event. “And I was even more pleased to take part in the parade attended by marshal Kim Jong Un.”

The evening dance rally and torchlight parade were capped with fireworks, including pyrotechnics launched from the Juche tower, an obelisk built in 1982 and symbolizing North Korea's philosophy of self-reliance.

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May 10, 11:14 a.m.: This article has been updated with evening rally, torchlight parade, fireworks.

This article was originally posted May 9 at 10:33 p.m.