North Korea's Kim wraps up rare party congress with mass art performance

FILE PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during the 8th Congress of the Workers' Party in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo supplied by North Korea's Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 13, 2021. KCNA/via REUTERS/File Photo

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un wrapped up a rare congress at a mass indoor art performance on Wednesday, state media said, but made no mention of a reported military parade.

Kim and other North Korean officials packed into an indoor stadium in Pyongyang to watch performances from military and civilian art troupes and youth groups, mostly on themes of glorifying Kim's leadership and reinforcing messaging from the congress, news agency KCNA reported on Thursday.

The congress, which ran for eight days in Pyongyang, is the first since 2016, and just the second since 1980.

The performance was the latest in a series of large gatherings this week where Kim and the other attendees did not appear to wear masks or use other social distancing measures, according to images released by state media.

North Korea has not reported any confirmed cases of the coronavirus, but it has imposed strict border closures, domestic travel restrictions, and other measures to prevent an outbreak.

State media has not shown an expected parade. Such events are closely watched by international observers for signs of new military technology developed by North Korea, which is under international sanctions for its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.

On Wednesday Kim Yo Jong, the leader's sister and a member of the party Central Committee, criticised South Korea's military for saying it had detected signs of a parade in Pyongyang on Sunday. The move was an expression of the South's "hostile approach" towards the North, she said in a statement carried by KCNA.

Ahead of the congress, commercial satellite imagery showed troops rehearsing in formation, and NK News, a website that monitors North Korea, cited a source who said they heard heavy vehicles moving in Pyongyang on Sunday.

(Reporting by Josh Smith; editing by Richard Pullin)

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