-North Korean holidays are categorized by “holidays” “national memorial days” and “the biggest holiday for the people”
-Differences are: number of days taken off, gift for the holiday and security
-The biggest holidays are Kim Jong-Il and Kim Il-Sung’s birthdays
As February has come, preparation for Kim Jong-Il’s birthday keeps everyone busy. Kim Jong-Il’s birthday is considered the biggest holiday and celebrated in a gaudy way. What does “biggest holiday for the people” mean? In order to understand what it means, it is necessary to understand the designation of other holidays in North Korea.
Generally, North Korean holidays are categorized as holidays, national memorial days, and biggest holiday for the people. Holidays are designated by the Labor Law in the country, and they refer to Sundays. In North Korea, Saturdays are just like other days and considered the same as Mondays.
National memorial days are what South Koreans call holidays. These include Party Establishment Day (10.10), Regime Establishment Day (9.9), Military Establishment Day (4.25), Constitution Day (12.27), and Independence Day (8.15). Other Departments of the government also have national memorial days. For instance, the military has an infantry day, navy day, air force day, and the ministries each have agriculture day, fishery day, mine day, youth day, and juvenile day. Each military and the factories too set the days of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il’s visit as memorial days.
National memorial days also include international holidays for socialist countries, such as international women’s day (3.8), and international laborer’s day (5.1), and traditional holidays, such as Chuseok (Thanksgiving of Korea), Danoh, New Year’s Day, and Lunar New Year’s Day.
North Korea has a law designating the Biggest Holidays for the People, and they are Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il’s birthdays.
What are the differences of these holidays?
One difference is the number of days taken off to celebrate the holidays. National memorial days gives one day off. However, every 5 or 10 years, the national memorial days give two days off. The first day usually is taken up with government events, and everyone is required to attend. Therefore, citizens actually have only one day off after the required event.
The largest holiday of the people also gives at least two days off, and various events are carried out, including Central Meeting for the Holiday, gymnastics, photos, exhibition, and various coalition meetings and discussion groups. The day after the holiday, there is a meeting for “oath of loyalty.”
Secondly, the quality of gift from the government differs.
On national memorial holidays, the gifts include a bottle of alcohol, under 100 g of oil, and under 1kg of meat, and individuals actually have to purchase them. The gifts were free before 1990s, but after the Arduous March, they have become special items.
On the biggest holiday for the people, these items and other gifts are provided. Sometimes, all children get uniforms. In 1980 when Kim Jong-Il first took over power, all households received a Baekdu Mountain Clock for free.
The distribution of gifts is not fair, however. Some departments or factories give out more gifts than others. Foreign currency earning companies, for instance, give refrigerators or TVs, while smaller factories give out a bottle of alcohol.
Thirdly, security level differs.
For the biggest holiday for the people, security level is heightened in order to prevent any accidents. The Party Secretary of the district is responsible for the security, then the Administrative Manager of the district is responsible for the next day. When there is a third day off, Organizational Secretary of the district is responsible for security. For national memorial days, regular security forces are used.
Therefore, the holidays have several different symbolic meanings. The fact that Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il’s birthdays are considered the biggest holidays, rather than the New Year’s Day or other traditional holidays, demonstrates the degree of dictatorship in North Korea.