As American revelers prepared to freeze outside in frosty temperatures at Thanksgiving parades around the country this week, Pyongyang was staging a very different type of rally that nevertheless had the same hallmarks of a similarly cheesy spectacle.
The government-sponsored Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) released a video this week of an epic march in the capital's Kim Il-sung Square in support of the government's emphatic objection to a United Nations resolution that slammed its human rights record — which, the hermit kingdom's leaders insist, is impeccable.
Thousands of people participated in the rally, the likes of which are usually organized by the government. They carried brightly colored banners as they marched and cried in unison through the square. A row of steely-faced officials, some in military uniform, were seen observing the march from a balcony overlooking the crowd.
The pageantry was presumably videotaped and released on YouTube in an attempt to soften Western opinion on the regime's treatment of its people and display their solidarity in responding to the affront. If all of the supreme leader's horses and all the supreme leader's men turn out to support the regime, it can't be all that bad — right?
The UN sees it differently. The General Assembly's Third Committee, which deals with human rights, passed a resolution last Tuesday urging the Security Council to refer Pyongyang to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague for committing "unspeakable atrocities," including the systematic murder, enslavement, torture, rape, starvation, and summary imprisonment of its own citizens. Most of these human rights violations were outlined in a UN inquiry released earlier this year.
In response to the UN report, the North Korean government released its own 53,000-word document suggesting that the negative coverage is all just a misunderstanding, and that it actually leads the world in human rights.
According to its own report, North Korea has complete press, voting, speech, and assembly freedoms. The report described respected and openly gay former Australian justice, Michael Kirby, who led the UN investigation, as "a disgusting old lecher with a 40-odd-year-long career of homosexuality."
The UN's "fabricated" report must have been the work of the US and its "satellite forces," trying to overthrow the regime, Pyongyang claimed, adding that all of the eyewitness testimonies were given by "human scum who betrayed their homeland and people."
While the UN resolution isn't binding — China and Russia are both expected to veto North Korea's referral to the ICC — it has apparently made Pyongyang nervous. In the last couple of months, North Korea released the last three American detainees held in that country after US envoys came to the state to negotiate their releases. US officials claim there was no quid pro quo prisoner swap arrangement, and security experts told VICE News earlier this month that North Korea's move was likely an attempt to "blunt criticism from the international community" over its human rights record.
This week, North Korea also threatened nuclear tests and referred to a possible "nuclear war" in the Korean peninsula in response to the resolution.
Samuel Oakford contributed to this report.
Follow Liz Fields on Twitter: @lianzifields