SEOUL-- North Korea is holding various celebratory events this week to ramp up its drive to build a festive mood ahead of the birthday of late leader Kim Jong-il.

North Korea will mark the 77th birthday of the late leader, and father of current leader Kim Jong-un, on Saturday. The birthdays of Kim Jong-Il and founding leader Kim Il-sung are among the biggest national holidays in North Korea.

Kim Il-sung's birthday is called the "Day of the Sun" and Kim Jong-il's is called the "Day of the Shining Star."

The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that an international figure skating event will kick off in Pyongyang on Friday for a three-day run. Previously, foreign skaters participated in the event but it is not yet known if this year's version is open to outside athletes.

The Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the North's ruling party, also reported on a celebratory ice sculpture event underway in Samjiyon County of Ryanggang Province bordering China. North Korea claims that Samjiyon, near Mount Paekdu, the sacred highest peak on the Korean Peninsula, is the birthplace of Kim Jong-il.

The newspaper said that about 1,000 tons of ice and 4,000 tons of snow were used to make some 2,000 sculptures being displayed at the event, which started on Sunday.

The KCNA earlier said that North Korea has organized task forces in around 40 countries in Europe and Asia to prepare for various events to mark the birthday of the late leader.

Source: Yonhap News Agency