Economy tones down Kim Il Sung holiday

April 15, 2008 at 12:24 PM

PYONGYANG, North Korea, April 15 (UPI) -- A looming economic crisis caused North Korean officials to tone down celebrations Tuesday marking the birthday of the late Kim Il Sung, analysts said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il visited the palace where his late father is embalmed, the Yonhap news agency said Tuesday, citing reports from the North Korean state news media.

Kim Yong Nam, the ceremonial national leader, lauded Kim's wish to build "a powerful and prosperous socialist state," reminding observers of a pledge to boost North Korea's sagging economy by 2012, the late leader's 100th birthday.

Pyongyang toned down the celebrations Tuesday by not including the traditional display of 100,000 gymnasts and without the parade of foreign artists praising Kim.

Aid groups and North Korean experts said the measure signals a worsening crisis in North Korea. Some South Korean aid groups predict massive deaths from starvation could develop as early as May.

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