North Koreans pay tribute to Kim’s father in freezing cold

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Ordinary North Koreans consistently express unequivocal support for the leadership and its policies when speaking to foreign media. (AFP)
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Groups ranging from couples and families to hundreds-strong detachments of workers or soldiers assembled in front of the images of their departed leaders. (AFP)
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People gather as they wait to pay their respects before the statues of late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il as part of celebrations marking the birthday of the Kim patriarch. (AFP)
Updated 16 February 2019
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North Koreans pay tribute to Kim’s father in freezing cold

  • Referred to as the Day of the Shining Star, the occasion is celebrated with ice skating displays, flower shows, and laudatory tributes in state media

PYONGYANG: The Day of the Shining Star dawned bitterly cold in Pyongyang. But thousands of North Koreans lined up in temperatures of minus 8 degrees Celsius on Saturday to pay their respects to late leader Kim Jong Il on his birthday.
Kim, the son of the isolated North’s founder Kim Il Sung and the father and predecessor of current leader Kim Jong Un, was born on February 16.
According to Pyongyang’s orthodoxy, he came into the world in 1942, in a snow-covered hut at a secret camp on the slopes of Mount Paektu, the spiritual birthplace of the Korean people, where his father was fighting occupying Japanese forces.
Outside historians point instead to official Soviet records, which say he was born a year earlier in a Siberian village where Kim Il Sung was in exile.
Either way, it is a key anniversary in a nuclear-armed nation whose people are taught from birth to revere the “Paektu bloodline,” as the Kim family which has ruled it for three generations is known.
Referred to as the Day of the Shining Star, the occasion is celebrated with ice skating displays, flower shows, and laudatory tributes in state media, all reinforcing the underlying narrative.
Driver Kim Chol Jun, 42, took his two boys to Mansu Hill, where giant statues of the two older Kims look out over the capital, to pay his respects to them and the current leader.
“No sons and daughters feel tired when they visit their parents,” he said. “The great leaders are regarded as our own parents, so I visit here to bow before our parents with my sons.”
Ordinary North Koreans consistently express unequivocal support for the leadership and its policies when speaking to foreign media.
Snow dusted the two monumental panels — one to the fight against Japanese occupiers, the other to the building of socialism — that flank the statues, their faces bathed in the light of the rising sun as small children swept the steps clean.
In pride of place before the bronze effigies stood a large floral tribute emblazoned with the name of Kim Jong Un, who is due to hold his second summit with US President Donald Trump at the end of the month.
Pyongyang is under multiple international sanctions over its pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, which Washington is pressing it to give up. North Korea has rejected demands for what it calls its “unilateral” disarmament.
Turn by turn, groups ranging from couples and families to hundreds-strong detachments of workers or soldiers assembled in front of the images.
After placing individual blooms or flower baskets before the figures, they lined up as an announcer intoned: “Let us pay tribute,” and bowed deeply, the military personnel saluting.
Kim Jong Il died in 2011 and his remains are preserved in a memorial palace on the outskirts of Pyongyang, but officially he remains eternal General Secretary of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea.
Retired actress Ri Cho Ok, 77, instantly became emotional when asked about the late leader, her voice trembling as she described how much she missed him and how standing before the statues brought the incumbent to mind.
Kim Jong Il was a film director himself and renowned cinephile, to the extent he had a top South Korean director and actress kidnapped so they could develop the North’s cinema industry. Pyongyang says their eight-year stay was voluntary.
“The great general taught me step-by-step as I was becoming an actress,” Ri said, “and gave me many orders and medals.”
But, she added, “it was like I received all the honors in the world when I met him.”


France bans Iran’s Mahan Air for flying arms, troops to Syria, elsewhere

Updated 48 min 13 sec ago
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France bans Iran’s Mahan Air for flying arms, troops to Syria, elsewhere

  • The ban will become effective starting April 1
  • The airlines were also banned by Germany since January

PARIS: France has banned flights in and out of the country by Iran’s Mahan Air, accusing it of transporting military equipment and personnel to Syria and other Middle East war zones, diplomats said on Monday, after heavy US pressure on Paris to act.
The decision to revoke Mahan’s license to operate in France was made after Germany banned the airline in January.
Paris had considered revoking its license more than two years ago under the presidency of Francois Hollande, but had backed down because it feared it could harm relations just after a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers was signed in 2015.
The United States imposed sanctions on Mahan Air in 2011, saying it provided financial and other support to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), and Washington has been pressing its European allies to follow suit.
“We knew of their activities from our own intelligence services and after the German move it was a question of credibility,” said a French diplomatic source.
The French ban on the airline, which had four flights a week to Paris from Tehran, takes effect from April 1. The airline’s website is no longer taking reservations and calls to its offices in Paris were not answered.
Tensions between Paris and Tehran have grown in recent months as President Emmanuel Macron and his government have become increasingly frustrated with Iran’s ballistic missile tests, regional activities and a foiled attack on an Iranian exile group in France, which Paris says Iranian intelligence was behind.
Both countries only reappointed ambassadors to each other’s capitals last month after more than six months without envoys.
There are no plans at this stage to ban another airline — Iran Air — said one diplomat.
Mahan Air, established in 1992 as Iran’s first private airline, has the country’s largest fleet of aircraft and has flights to a number of European countries, including France, Italy, Spain and Greece.
European countries have been under sustained US pressure to reimpose sanctions on Iran since President Donald Trump last year pulled Washington out of an international nuclear non-proliferation treaty reached with Tehran under his predecessor Barack Obama.
Along with Iran, the other signatories to the deal — Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China — are still trying to keep it alive and set up in January a mechanism to allow trade with Tehran and circumvent US sanctions.