- The Washington Times - Friday, January 1, 2021

While many of the world’s great cities were eerily quiet on a New Year’s Eve clouded by the COVID-19 pandemic, North Koreans partied on.

Pictures from the streets of Pyongyang captured large crowds enjoying a fireworks display. A nearly hour-long live broadcast showed North Koreans singing, dancing and watching the fireworks launched in the capital’s Kim Il Sung Square.

As with most other matters, the government of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has offered few details on the extent of the coronavirus outbreak in the country. The celebrations went on despite a year that was also marked by devastating floods and typhoons.

Across the demilitarized zone on the Korean peninsula, there were few public celebrations in South Korea, with most ringing in 2021 virtually.

“By holding the celebration as in other years, the North tried to show its regime is not being shaken by current challenges,” Shin Beom-chul, the director of the Center for Diplomacy and Security at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy, told the Seoul-based Korea Times Friday.

North Korea, which sealed its already heavily guarded borders early in the pandemic, officially says it has had no domestic cases of the virus, a claim many outside experts doubt.

Mr. Kim for the second year running did not offer his traditional New Year’s address to the nation. The North Korean leader is preparing for a major gathering of party officials this month as he prepares to deal with the incoming Biden administration in Washington.

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