Health workers in hazmat suits watched over by slimmer Kim Jong un in North Korea parade

Click above to watch North Korea's anniversary parade and leader Kim Jong un

A slimmed-down Kim Jong un has been pictured watching over parades of goose-stepping soldiers and health workers in hazmat suits as North Korea celebrated its 73rd anniversary.

The parade saw less military hardware that in recent years, a marked departure from past militaristic displays, with a domestic audience worried about the Covid-19 pandemic likely in mind.

The parade centred around paramilitary organisations and public security forces protecting the capital, Pyongyang, instead of the military units that handle the most important weapons in the North Korean leader's nuclear and missile arsenal.

Goose-stepping soldiers featured heavily in the parade. Credit: AP

In January and last October, North Korea rolled out its most provocative strategic weapons, threatening Asian rivals and the American homeland, but there was no indication the latest parade showcased ballistic weapons.

Thursday’s state media coverage of the event that began late Wednesday indicated its message was aimed at a domestic audience.

Military hardware is seen during the parade Credit: Korean Central News Agency/PA

Experts say the toned-down event reflected the harsh challenges facing North Korea as its broken, mismanaged economy is further strained by continuing US-led sanctions, prolonged border closures because of the pandemic, and flooding that caused food shortages in recent years.

North Korean state television, which broadcast a recording of the event on Thursday evening, showed the performers and tens of thousands of spectators roaring as Mr Kim appeared as the clock struck midnight.

North Korean soldiers on horses Korean Central News Agency/PA)

Mr Kim, flanked by senior officials and smiling widely, kissed the children who presented him with flowers and waved to the crowd before taking his spot at a balcony overlooking the brightly lit Kim Il Sung Square, named after his grandfather who founded the nation in 1948.

Kim was visibly slimmer than at the start of the year, having lost a good deal of weight several months ago.

Experts say the weight loss is likely an attempt to improve his health, rather than a sign of illness, since he has continued his regular public activity.