How do N. Koreans celebrate Lunar New Year?
But, although the two halves of the peninsula share many aspects of culture, nearly 77 years of division between the two Koreas has led to divergent holiday traditions.
In North Korea, the significance of socialist holidays, including the birthdays of late leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, National Founding Day on September 9, and Party Founding Day on September 10 October, far outweighs holiday traditions.
So how do North Koreans greet the Year of the Tiger?
Unsurprisingly, North Koreans are beginning to celebrate Lunar New Year’s Day by showing their loyalty to the Kim family. And later in the day, people observe ancestral rites, enjoy family meals and watch artistic performances accompanied by messages praising the preeminence of leader Kim Jong-un and the ruling party leadership.
In the morning, North Koreans lay flowers and pay their respects at statues or portraits of deceased North Korean leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-Il.
Pyongyang residents visit the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun where the embalmed bodies of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il are kept, and climb Mansu Hill to bow before giant bronze statues of deceased leaders.
But there is no mass movement to visit family in North Korea, mainly because there is no freedom of movement. The scene is quite a contrast to neighboring China, where the world’s largest annual migration typically takes place across the country every lunar year.
North Koreans are required to have a travel permit to travel outside of their residence. Additionally, Kim Jong-un’s regime has tightened restrictions on domestic travel in the name of COVID-19 epidemic prevention and control.
Instead, North Koreans quietly celebrate the Lunar New Year, watching artistic performances including music concerts, “revolutionary operas” and circuses held in each region, according to previous state media reports. .
The country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, is no exception. For the past two years, Kim and his loyal aides have attended a celebratory concert filled with songs and performances that sang in praise of the greatness of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea and the North Korean leader, and envisioned a socialist utopia.
Songs such as “We Will Go Along the Road of Loyalty” and “We’ll Travel One Road Forever” echoed through the concert hall, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported last January.
“The public once again deeply felt the truth that our country and our people have (an) immensely bright future despite the hardships and difficulties on the road to advancement as long as the General Secretary leads the Party.”
Unlike South Korea, the North Korean people still place great importance on New Year’s Day, as the late founder Kim Il-sung ignored the custom of celebrating the Lunar New Year as a “remnant of a feudalism” and designated New Year’s Day on the solar calendar as a public holiday in 1946.
After the Korean War in 1953, the Lunar New Year tradition disappeared without a trace.
But the late leader Kim Jong-il in 2003 asked people to celebrate the 3-day Lunar New Year holiday instead of New Year’s Day, as part of his broad ideological campaign to promote “the spirit of Korean nation first”.
Kim Jong-il’s regime has emphasized the importance of the Lunar New Year as a traditional festival inheriting national tradition.
Against this background, North Koreans still enjoy traditional folk games including kite-flying, top-spinning, jegichagi, and yunnori board game during the Lunar New Year holiday.
This year’s calendar shows that North Korea has designated a Lunar New Year holiday. According to a database provided by South Korea’s Unification Ministry, people take a day off, but should catch up by working extra work on Sundays.
But people still look forward to the Lunar New Year, as Kim Jong-un’s regime provided food and necessities on public holidays.
By Ji Da-gyum ([email protected])