Conflict & Justice

How North Korea is celebrating the war you never knew it won


This photo taken on September 22, 2010 shows a North Korean military female guide speaking to some visitors next to the captured USS Pueblo docked at a port in Pyongyang.



SEOUL, South Korea — This week, North Korea is celebrating.

An auspicious date approaches. Saturday marks the 60th anniversary of the armistice that halted the Korean War of 1950 to 1953.

Americans know the conflict as the “Forgotten War,” a devastating campaign that left 36,000 of their servicemen dead and ended in a draw.

But North Koreans have a different view of the conflict, in which they claim victory. The “Great Fatherland Liberation War,” as they call it, was a crusade to unify the Korean peninsula under a communist rule.

Since the fighting ended in an armistice and not a peace treaty, both sides are technically still at war.

This week, the isolated state is rolling out the red carpet for its war heroes. Here’s a look at the festivities.


Mass Games

On Monday, North Korea kicked off its annual Mass Games, a yearly spectacle consisting of around 100,000 participants. This year, the show follows a war theme that includes battlefield reenactments.

In attendance was the Supreme Leader himself, Kim Jong Un, along with American tourists who the regime ironically welcomes to show off their “national glory.”


The grand military parade

North Korea loves putting together military shows of force on important dates. Since the Korean War is especially important, the parade scheduled for Saturday is bound to offer some surprises.

Celebrating the 100th anniversary of founding father Kim Il Sung’s birth in April 2012, the North Korean military unveiled mock-ups of its new KN-08 long-range missile, a weapon that analysts feared could eventually hit American bases in the Pacific.

The KN-08 will probably make an appearance this weekend, along with other objects of national glory.


The spy ship

In 1968, North Korean soldiers boarded and captured an American spy ship, the USS Pueblo. Pyongyang claimed the vessel had strayed into territorial waters.

The regime took the 82-person crew hostage and released them 11 months later, during a little-known series of skirmishes called the Second Korean War.

Seeing that Washington was distracted in the Vietnam War, the dictator Kim Il Sung wanted to launch provocations and chip away at his enemies, historians say.

For decades, the Pueblo was put on display as a propaganda piece in Pyongyang. It recently disappeared. But this week, Pyongyang is unveiling the ship again with a fresh coat of paint.