Photographer's Note

The photograph that I posted a few weeks ago of the hundreds of soldiers with rifles and fixed bayonets marching in unison across the May Day stadium in Pyongyang, as part of the Arirang performance, attracted a lot of interest, so I thought I would post another picture of the military display – but this one a bit ‘softer’ and featuring the female soldiers.

The “don’t mess with us” message from the backdrop is still clear though, and in this shot you can see more clearly the flashcards that are being held up by the 20,000 schoolchildren seated on the other side of the stadium to form the backdrop. In this photograph, only the line of female soldiers at the front are carrying rifles with fixed bayonets, the rest are carrying and playing musical instruments, so I could just as well have titled this photograph – ‘The Biggest Band in the World’.

The Korean People's Army (KPA) is the ‘revolutionary armed wing’ of the Worker's Party and is the largest employer in North Korea with over a million full-time soldiers – both men and women – and about seven million reservists out of a total population of 22 million who train for 30-40 days a year.
The Global Security website says this about the KPA:
“North Korea continues to position forces into the area just north of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) — in a position to threaten Combined Forces Command (US and South Korean forces) and all of Seoul with little warning. Seventy percent of their active force, including approximately 700,000 troops, over 8,000 artillery systems, and 2,000 tanks, is postured within 90 miles of the DMZ. Most of this force in the forward area is protected in over 4,000 underground facilities, out of over 11,000 nationwide. From their current locations, these forces can attack with minimal preparations or warning. The protracted southward deployment follows a tactic of ‘creeping normalcy’ — a significant movement over a period of many years that would attract too much international attention if accomplished over weeks or months. North Korea's massive mechanized infantry and tank units, positioned in depth along the major routes of the attack line, are able to concentrate force on exploiting a breakthrough and enlarging the results of combat operations. The North Korean artillery units, protected in covered trenches and underground bases, can deliver deep fire support without exposure while their multiple rocket launchers are capable of concentrating fire support. North Korea's river-crossing engineering forces armed with more than 600 amphibious vehicles and over 2,300 S-type floating bridge sections can transport troops and equipment for speedy river-crossing operations.”

In this photograph you can see more clearly the ‘doves of peace’ that were flying across the stadium on wires during the Arirang performance. Somehow they looked a bit incongruous against backdrops of guns and scenes of the revolution.

PP: Cropped, slight adjustment to saturation, USM.

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Additional Photos by David Astley (banyanman) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1231 W: 108 N: 2568] (7797)
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