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North Korea's Kim Jong Un honors country's war veterans

By Ivan Watson and Tim Schwarz, CNN
updated 6:41 AM EDT, Fri July 26, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Kim Jong Un opens new war veterans' cemetery in North Korean capital
  • North Koreans set to commemorate 60th anniversary of end of Korean War
  • Pyongyang government has invited a large number of foreign journalists

Pyongyang, North Korea (CNN) -- The new leader of this isolated country has inaugurated a new veterans' cemetery, on the first of what are expected to be several days of elaborate ceremonies celebrating the 60th anniversary of the conclusion of the Korean War.

Several thousand North Koreans, some of them elderly veterans of the conflict, cheered and applauded when Kim Jong Un arrived at the sprawling new cemetery accompanied by uniformed military commanders and civilian officials.

Kim did not speak to the audience. Instead, he cut a ribbon at the entrance to the cemetery compound, which is flanked by enormous monuments and statues depicting fierce North Korean soldiers.

Read: U.S. hero pays respects in North Korea

He departed after making a brief tour of some of the gravestones. Then the crowd, which included men in baggy, dark suits and ties and women dressed in bright puffy gowns, walked with reverence past graves decorated with medals of heroism.

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A woman named Kim Pu Ok flung herself weeping at the grave of her husband, a man named Chu Yung Hui who died at the age of 74 in 2011.

Read: Chosin -- The epic battle Hollywood overlooked

Kim said her husband was a pilot in the Vietnam War. She stood next to her son, who she said was also a pilot.

"There are five pilots in our family," Kim said. "I am very angry at the U.S. imperialist policy against North Korea. That is why all of my family became Korean People's Army pilots -- to conquer the U.S. imperialists."

The North Korean government has invited a large number of foreign journalists to attend the 60th anniversary of the signing of the armistice, which brought an end to the Korean War.

Read: Why the Korean War still matters

Pyongyang describes the war as a decisive North Korean victory over Washington and its South Korean allies.

Among the foreign visitors invited to attend this week's anniversary celebrations are several Chinese veterans and at least one former Soviet veteran of the conflict. Also present at Wednesday's event was Thomas Hudner, a veteran U.S. Navy pilot who has been granted permission to return to North Korea to search for the remains of a fallen comrade.

Hudner's 60-year quest has been postponed, North Korean authorities say, because of torrential rains in the area where the remains are believed to be buried. Hudner has been invited back to resume his search in September.

CNN's Paula Hancocks in Pyongyang contributed to this report.

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