PICTURES, VIDEO

Guns, grenades and rockets at North Korea flower show

A North Korean family (centre) is seen posing for a photo as they visit a Kimilsungia flower festival in Pyongyang on Friday, July 26, 2013. -- PHOTO: AFP
A North Korean family (centre) is seen posing for a photo as they visit a Kimilsungia flower festival in Pyongyang on Friday, July 26, 2013. -- PHOTO: AFP
A woman wearing a traditional North Korean dress attends a Kimilsungia flower festival in Pyongyang on Friday, July 26, 2013. -- PHOTO: AFP
A woman wearing a traditional North Korean dress attends a Kimilsungia flower festival in Pyongyang on Friday, July 26, 2013. -- PHOTO: AFP
A North Korean soldier takes a group photo for other soldiers next to foreign news photographers as they visit the Kimilsungia-Kimjongilia exhibition in Pyongyang on Friday, July 26, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A North Korean soldier takes a group photo for other soldiers next to foreign news photographers as they visit the Kimilsungia-Kimjongilia exhibition in Pyongyang on Friday, July 26, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
North Korean soldiers stand before a portrait of late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung (back right) as they visit a Kimilsungia flower festival in Pyongyang on Friday, July 26, 2013. -- PHOTO: AFP
North Korean soldiers stand before a portrait of late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung (back right) as they visit a Kimilsungia flower festival in Pyongyang on Friday, July 26, 2013. -- PHOTO: AFP
North Korean soldiers pose before a portrait of late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung (back) as they visit a Kimilsungia flower festival in Pyongyang on Friday, July 26, 2013. -- PHOTO: AFP
North Korean soldiers pose before a portrait of late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung (back) as they visit a Kimilsungia flower festival in Pyongyang on Friday, July 26, 2013. -- PHOTO: AFP
A North Korean soldier stands before a Kimilsungia flower display at a flower festival in Pyongyang on Friday, July 26, 2013. North Korea is preparing to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War which ran from 1950 to 1953, with a serie
A North Korean soldier stands before a Kimilsungia flower display at a flower festival in Pyongyang on Friday, July 26, 2013. North Korea is preparing to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War which ran from 1950 to 1953, with a series of performances, festivals, and cultural events culminating with a large military parade. -- PHOTO: AFP

PYONGYANG (AFP) - It's a long way from your average flower show, with mock missiles bristling behind the begonias, and garden gnome-sized troops lobbing grenades over a bed of orchids.

But then, as the North Korean staff inside the cavernous bloom-decked exhibition hall in Pyongyang are quick to point out, these are far from average flowers.

The red begonias are actually Kimjongilia, named after late leader Kim Jong Il, while the orchids are Kimilsungia - after his father and the nation's founder Kim Il Sung.

"They are both beautiful and rare flowers named after the most famous men in the world," one English-speaking guide to the exhibition, Kim Chun Kyong, told AFP during a tour for invited foreign media on Friday.

Both flowers dominated the 70 large-scale displays taking up three floors of the hall in a special show to mark the 60th anniversary of the 1950-53 Korean War ceasefire.

The signing of the armistice is celebrated as "Victory Day" in North Korea and the martial theme was laid on with a large trowel.

Most of the floral displays utilised military statuary, many showing a proud soldier carrying the national flag into battle over the flowerpots.

Some went for actual battlefield action, with metre-high figurines of heavy machine gunners and grenade throwers embedded between the Kimjongilia, whose large blooms and thick stems provided better cover than the more delicate Kimilsungia.

Also prominent were scaled down models of the Unha-3 rocket with which North Korea successfully placed a satellite in orbit last December.

Most of the international community viewed the launch as a disguised ballistic missile test and the UN Security Council tightened sanctions on Pyongyang as a result.

Each floral display was put together by a different state institution, ministry or committee, and some chose to personalise their efforts to reflect their own work.

Instead of armed troops, one trade body decorated its flower beds with its products, including a CNC milling machine, some rolls of patterned textiles and bags of fertiliser.

The Committee For the Peaceful Reunification of Korea had its flowers arranged in the shape of a map of the entire Korean peninsula, with Pyongyang marked by a slightly taller, rotating flower pot.

The national flower of North Korea is the magnolia, and the blooms named after the two late leaders were both provided by outsiders.

Late Indonesian president Sukarno presented Mr Kim Il Sung with his orchid namesake, and the Kimjongilia was grown by a Japanese botanist.

Asked whether native Korean varieties would not have been more appropriate, the guide said the fact that they were presented by foreigners made them more significant.

"This shows our great leaders are praised all over the world, and not only by the Korean people," she said, adding that current leader Kim Jong Un was likely to receive a similar honour in the future.

"I know that world people also praise him as the greatest person in the world, so maybe soon there will be a Kimjongunia," she said.

Factory worker Jiang Ok Sil took time off work to visit the exhibition with her five-year-old daughter.

"Like other Korean people, whenever we see these flowers we always remember our great leaders, Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il," Ms Jiang said.

Pressed to choose her favourite, Ms Jiang hesitated before opting for the Kimilsungia which "looked more beautiful".

"But the Kimjongilia is very beautiful too," she added quickly.