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North Korea to Mark Anniversary of Kim Jong Un's Grandmother

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North Korea prepares to observe the death anniversary of Kim Jong Un’s grandmother as world leaders increase criticism of its missile and nuclear test program.

Kim Jong Sook was the grandmother of the North Korean leader.

A popular figure in North Korea, she was the first wife of the country’s founding leader, Kim Il Sung. He ruled for more than 45 years until his death in 1994. Upon his death, the son of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Sook, Kim Jong Il, came to power. He ruled until his death in 2011. At that time, his son, Kim Jong Un, became leader. He has ruled North Korea ever since.

A picture of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung (C), his first wife Kim Jong-suk (R) and his son Kim Jong-il, is displayed at the Unification Hall at the West Seoul Life Science High School in Seoul July 17, 2009. (REUTERS)
A picture of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung (C), his first wife Kim Jong-suk (R) and his son Kim Jong-il, is displayed at the Unification Hall at the West Seoul Life Science High School in Seoul July 17, 2009. (REUTERS)

Major observances are planned to mark the September 22 anniversary, according to sources who spoke to Radio Free Asia.

North Korea began to emphasize the role of Kim Jong Sook after last year’s 7th Congress of the ruling Korean Workers’ Party, a source said. At one event on August 15, she was called “the Mother of the Revolution, the source added.

Flowers from Kim Jong Un will be placed on a statue of Kim Jong Sook at her birthplace in North Hamgyong province, said another source.

The celebrations will be a way for officials to emphasize Kim Jong Un’s direct blood ties to North Korea’s founding couple.

According to another source in North Hamgyong province, the observances under former leader Kim Jong Il were handled more quietly. “But this has become a more important event now that Kim Jong Un is in charge,” the source said.

International pressures

The observances come as the international community attempts to put more pressure on North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program.

North Korea has a history of marking anniversaries with nuclear and missile tests. The country tested its fifth nuclear device on the anniversary of its founding last year. More recently, it tested its sixth nuclear device and several missiles.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised a ballistic rocket launching drill of Hwasong artillery units of the Strategic Force of the KPA on the spot in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang March 7, 2017. KCNA/via REUTERS
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised a ballistic rocket launching drill of Hwasong artillery units of the Strategic Force of the KPA on the spot in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang March 7, 2017. KCNA/via REUTERS

Earlier this week, U.S. President Donald Trump used powerful language to warn North Korea. In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday, Trump said that if the U.S. is threatened, in his words, “We will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” He also called Kim “rocket man,” saying he seemed to be on “a suicide mission.”

On Thursday, Trump signed an executive order permitting the U.S. to sanction individual companies and institutions that do business with North Korea. He announced the action during a working lunch with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

President Donald Trump speaks at a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump speaks at a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Speaking to the U.N. General Assembly Thursday, Moon said he approved of sanctions being placed on North Korea to help resolve the nuclear conflict. But he urged North Korea to agree to hold talks on the issue to prevent a possible conflict.

Although South Korea is backing sanctions against North Korea, it also decided to move forward with a planned aid package worth $8 million to its communist neighbor.

I’m Caty Weaver.

Sunghui Moon reported this story for Radio Free Asia’s Korean Service. Bryan Lynn adapted it for VOA Learning English, with additional material from the Associated Press. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

sanction – n. action taken to make a country obey a rule or law

emphasize – v. show that something is important or needs special attention

achievement n. result gained through work or effort

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