North Korea’s parade was bigger than ever with one new twist: Reporter’s notebook

I’ve seen many military parades around the world, but nothing that rivals the spectacle of Sunday’s parade in Pyongyang.

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There were tens of thousands of North Korean troops — goose-stepping under leader Kim Jong Un‘s viewing balcony in Pyongyang’s Kim II Sung Square. And tens of thousands of civilians in the parade marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea’s founding as well.

PHOTO: Soldiers march with the portrait of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung during a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of countrys foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, Sept. 9, 2018.Danish Siddiqui/Reuters
Soldiers march with the portrait of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung during a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of country’s foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, Sept. 9, 2018.

We were in the massive square named after Kim’s grandfather, the country’s founding leader. Kim was just above us, waving at the adoring crowds below, whose emotions seemed genuine as they sat in the hot sun waiting for a glimpse of their “Supreme Leader.”

Despite the display of military might, which included tank battalions, rocket launcher and military aircraft that formed the number 70th above the square, there was no display of intercontinental ballistic missiles, something everyone was watching for.

Just seven months ago, a similar parade was held in the same square on the eve of the Winter Olympics in neighboring South Korea. That parade featured ICBM’s believed capable of reaching the United States and a speech from Kim declaring North Korea a “world-class military power.”

PHOTO: Performers take part in the Arirang Mass Games at the May Day stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea, Sept. 9, 2018.Alexander Demianchuk/TASS via ZUMA Press via Newscom
Performers take part in the Arirang Mass Games at the May Day stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea, Sept. 9, 2018.

But that was before Kim and President Donald Trump had their historic June summit in Singapore and signed a joint statement committing to denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.

But given what we have seen in the past few days, the emphasis has been far more on economic development, science and technology, and modernization.

PHOTO: North Korean gymnasts perform in the Arirang Mass games celebrating the 70th anniversary of North Koreas foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, Sept. 9, 2018.How Hwee Young/EPA-EFE via REX/Shutterstock
North Korean gymnasts perform in the Arirang Mass games celebrating the 70th anniversary of North Korea’s foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, Sept. 9, 2018.

Since I and the ABC News crew have been here, we have been with a government guide at all times, and can only go where they choose to take us. But in every place we’ve visited there were plaques showing that Kim or his father, or his grandfather had been here before. Their images have mostly been done with mosaics and are featured in the hallways of most government buildings.

Also, the chairs and benches where Kim Jong Un had sat are now encased in glass.

But you could see changes from years ago. From a teacher’s college where the students used virtual reality to study planets to a cosmetics factory where my guide told me they are trying to rival some of the name brand cosmetics of the West such as Gucci and Estee Lauder.

The guide said Kim Jung Un “appreciates beautiful women and wants North Korean women to be the most beautiful of all.”

On Sunday night, we were invited to attend the Mass Games, another extravaganza.

Part Olympic opening ceremony, part Super Bowl halftime show, the games were relaunched by Kim after a five-year hiatus.

PHOTO: Participants perform during the Arirang Mass Games in Pyongyang, North Korea, Sept. 9, 2018. Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images
Participants perform during the Arirang Mass Games in Pyongyang, North Korea, Sept. 9, 2018.

The event was held in May Day stadium, the largest stadium in the world with a capacity to hold 150,000 people. There were marching bands and thousands of singers, dancers and gymnasts who told the history of the 70 years since the nation’s founding.

Kim Jong Un was there again, and he was the climax of the show.

During the event, a video was played of Kim meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

The two leaders are scheduled to meet again later this month in Pyongyang and Kim seems determined to pursue economic development after his quest for nuclear proliferation prompted both the United States and South Korea to the negotiating table.

PHOTO: North Koreas leader Kim Jong Un (C) waves as he stands beside Chinas Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National Peoples Congress Li Zhanshu (center R) during the Arirang Mass Games in Pyongyang, Sept. 9, 2018.Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un (C) waves as he stands beside China’s Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress Li Zhanshu (center R) during the Arirang Mass Games in Pyongyang, Sept. 9, 2018.

Clearly, he is all in on the peace deal with South Korea, although he has shown little movement since meeting with Trump in June on denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.

When the video was shown of Kim and Moon meeting, the crowd erupted in cheers. But in this country, anything Kim does is met with applause and adulation.

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