Military parade in North Korea features hazmat suits, gas masks

North Korea has staged a midnight military parade in Pyongyang to mark the country’s 73rd founding anniversary with a display of marching rows of personnel in orange hazmat suits and gas masks, but did not display any major ballistic missiles.

In what was called a “paramilitary and public security” parade, none of the participants or audience were seen wearing masks in the pictures. Leader Kim Jong-un, unmasked himself, was pictured hugging children. Wearing a light grey suit and matching tie, Mr Kim “extended warm greetings to all the people of the country” during the ceremony. On Thursday, state media released images of fire trucks, tractors, and fireworks at the parade. One section of the parade marched in what appeared to be bright red hazmat suits and gas masks, which may be a sign that a special force has been created to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. It featured rifle-carrying students, an aerial display by jet fighters, tractor-towed artillery, fire engines and health personnel in orange hazmat suits and gas masks, Korean Central News Agency reported. Small artillery pieces that were dragged by tractors were some of the biggest weapons to be displayed, in what is being seen as a significantly less assertive exhibition by the nation, which uses military parades to show off its military power.

North Korea’s parades serve two functions. On some occasions, they can be a way to show off new military hardware and ballistic missiles to the outside world in defiance of international sanctions. But most are a means of shoring up domestic support, especially in difficult times. It is a way to boost morale and encourage the crowds to watch the mass displays of strength and cheer them up with fireworks, even if in some parts of the country they have empty stomachs. North Korea is suffering from food shortages and a deepening economic crisis due to the Covid-19 pandemic.