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Kim Il Sung’s Birthday

Posted April. 15, 2010 06:53,   


North Korea today will celebrate the 98th birthday of its late founder Kim Il Sung, who died in 1994. Congratulatory events will be held across the communist country. Also called Sun Day, the holiday is the biggest in the North. A series of events will culminate in a huge congratulatory gathering in Pyongyang. A culinary festival was held last week, a spring art festival began Sunday, and the Kim Il Sung Flower Festival opened Tuesday. No other country holds national birthday parties for a dead leader on this scale.

North Korea made Kim’s birthday a national holiday in 1962. The day was designated a temporary holiday to celebrate his 50th birthday and became an official holiday six years later. When he turned 60 in 1972, North Korea designated his birthday as the country’s biggest holiday under a decision by the Central People’s Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party. After Kim’s death in 1994, his birthday has been observed as a holiday and became Sun Day in 1997.

The North Korean people waited for the holiday until several years ago since it meant two days off. They also received gifts from their government and companies. Generally, each household received 0.5 to one kilogram of meat, one kilogram of tofu, and a bottle of an alcoholic beverage. Those under age 12 received one kilogram of snacks made of corn and flour and candy. Though such presents paled in comparison with the luxury foreign cars high-ranking Workers’ Party and government officials received, Sun Day was considered a lucky day for the hungry North Korean people.

Things changed last year after heavy international sanctions were imposed on the communist country. Incumbent North Korean leader Kim Jong Il confessed at the end of last year that he failed to keep his father’s will to provide rice, meat soup and decent housing for the people. North Koreans have reportedly complained about the celebratory events for Kim Il Sung, saying they barely get by but the government wastes money on festivals and exhibitions. Last year, Pyongyang spent more than one billion won (898,000 U.S. dollars) on fireworks that lasted just 45 minutes. Hopefully, North Korea will provide food to its population of 24 million by reducing the number and scale of events.

Editorial Writer Bhang Hyeong-nam (hnbhang@donga.com)