"No one knows what they are," said Kim Soh Ye, the woman from the Foreign Affairs Ministry. "It's the first time we've seen them too."
Park, the 50-year-old performer at the parade, said his fellow participants were all party members and spent a week practicing. When the ceremony ended, he sat on a curb and wiped his brow with a plaid handkerchief.
"It was so moving," he said.
Despite teary-eyed enthusiasm, Kim Jong Eun faces considerable challenges to establish himself in power.
The living standards of North Koreans are among the lowest in the world, with much of the population on the edge of starvation. A disastrous revaluation of the currency late last year nearly pushed the economy to collapse.
The continuing stalemate over the nation's nuclear program has left it with few friends in the world, with China the most notable exception. A member of China's Politburo, Zhou Yongkang, had a front-row seat at the festivities in Pyongyang.
"Even in a totalitarian society, without some kind of achievement, it will be very difficult to establish his legitimacy," said Moon, the Yonsei professor. "Everything is well-orchestrated for the time being, but this is only the beginning of the succession process."
Kim Jong Il was designated his father's successor nearly two decades before he took power in 1994. Families in the North Korean military were told that Kim Jong Eun had spent years living under cover with North Korean soldiers, seeing the system from the inside.
That knowledge will help him fix North Korea, said a 28-year-old woman from the outskirts of Pyongyang, who was interviewed in March in China. Others interviewed there were skeptical.
"If his father is doing such a bad job, what can we expect of his son?" said a woman in her 50s from Musan, North Korea, who gave her name as Li Mi Hee.
Times staff writer Barbara Demick in Beijing contributed to this report.