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Defectors: North Koreans train in extreme cold for upcoming military parade

By Jennie Oh
Defectors: North Koreans train in extreme cold for upcoming military parade
This file image captured from footage aired on North Korea's state TV broadcaster on April 15, 2017, shows a military parade held in Pyongyang to mark the 105th birthday of late founder Kim Il-sung. File Photo by Yonhap News Agency/UPI

SEOUL, South Korea, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- North Koreans would have to endure more than ten hours of outdoor rehearsals every day for the regime's upcoming military parade, JoongAng Ilbo reported Tuesday, citing North Korean defectors.

In recent weeks, tens of thousands of troops and civilians were spotted in what appeared to be rehearsals for a massive military parade to mark the North Korean army's 70th anniversary.

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The army's anniversary date was recently changed from Apr. 25 to Feb. 8, meaning the locals will have to hold rehearsals amid the blistering cold conditions.

Temperatures in the North Korean capital have dropped to around minus 15 degrees Celcius.

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But the training itself is more biting than the cold, according to Choi Kyung-ho, a defector who participated in a military parade as a university student.

Choi said even though the participants are better fed than usual, the outdoor training sessions are extremely intense and take more than ten hours at a time.

"When I took food to those rehearsing, some of the university students would tell me the exercises so intense and there's no time to sleep so they would rather have a good sleep than eat anything," said Lee Hye-kyung, a defector who used to work in a municipal body in Pyongyang.

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North Korea's state organizations are ordered to supply food such as pork and rice cakes to those who are training for a parade.

Lee says many university students who have been discharged from mandatory service are chosen to take part in military parades and they take time off from their studies to train and camp together near the rehearsal site of Pyongyang's Mirim Airport.

Selected locals must also take part in the parades, which means they attend rehearsals straight after work. They are tasked with making colorful props such as flower bouquets and placards that they'll hold as they cheer and march in the event.

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"During the time you're mobilized for the parade after work, the state your home is in shambles and you're exhausted to death," said Park Na-kyung, a defector who worked at a textile factory in Pyongyang.

On Tuesday, the Voice of America reported that fully dressed preparations for a military parade were spotted at the Kim Il Sung Square located in the heart of the North Korean capital.

Commercial satellite images from Planet captured scenes of a huge crowd gathering at the square on Sunday morning, then forming a sea of red with three big yellow letters in the middle.

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Last week, satellite images detected movements of troops and military vehicles in a square near Mirim Airport, preparing for a mass performance.

Seoul officials suggested Monday that the North may mobilize up to 50,000 people and 200 pieces of military equipment for the upcoming parade.

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