January 8 is Kim Jong-un's birthday; he was born in 1984, which means he has turned 38 years old. Until now, there has been no mention of his birthday in the state-run media, and no public celebrations have been held. So how will the birthday be treated this year, which marks "the 10th anniversary of the Kim Jong-un era?" In this article, we report on what our reporting partners across North Korea have told us (Kang Ji-won).
◆ Growing Discontent Due to the Deteriorating Economy
The birthdays of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il are North Korea's most significant holidays. Large-scale events are held every year without fail, and special food and other rations are given to the people for free. However, the quality of food has deteriorated significantly in recent years.
How will it be handled in 2022? On the night of January 7th, our reporting partner in Hoeryong, North Hamkyung Province, informed us as follows:
"Everyone knows that January 8 is Jong-un's birthday. So far, there have been no celebrations, and nothing is planned for this year either. But this time, a special security system is in place for the first time. It will last from 5 p.m. on the 7th to the end of the 9th."
According to this reporting partner, it is the youth who are in charge of security. He said that the Red Guards and the Red Youth Guard, which are civilian armed forces organizations led by labor-affiliated youth organizations, have been instructed to specially guard the statues and portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, as well as the historical sites of the revolution, around the time of Kim Jong-un's birthday, and that they are patrolling in groups of three to five with security personnel (police officers).
Our reporting partner in Ryanggang Province has similarly reported that "for the first time a special security period has been set up for Jong-un's birthday."
In North Korea, where the economy continues to deteriorate due to extreme quarantine measures against the coronavirus, anxiety and frustration are growing among the residents who cannot see hope in their future. Although it is not an official holiday, the authorities are probably increasing their vigilance to prevent any disturbances coinciding with Kim Jong-un's birthday.
◆ Residents Disappointed by Lack of Special Rations
According to our reporting partners, there are no special events to celebrate Kim Jong-un's birthday.
"Each organization is supposed to go to the statue on the morning of the 8th to clean it and offer flowers, but this is being done mainly by the youth groups, with other organizations only asked to participate voluntarily." (reporting partner in Hoeryong city)
"Every Saturday, each organization will have a 'Saturday Study', and on the day of his birthday, the 8th, they will have a meeting to send letters expressing their loyalty to Kim Jong-un. The Women's League has been asked to participate in studying Kim Jong-un's greatness." (a reporting partner in Ryanggang Province)
The statues across North Korea are of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. There are no confirmed statues of Kim Jong-un. Meanwhile, sending letters of allegiance and studying Kim Jong-un’s greatness have been forced upon residents many times before, so these are not unique for his birthday.
According to our reporting partner in Hoeryong City, "What people are interested in is special rations to coincide with his birthday. This is because there are a lot of people who have nothing to eat. Since they are promoting Kim Jong-un as a great leader, we thought maybe they would give us some food, but there was nothing."
※ ASIAPRESS contacts its reporting partners in North Korea through smuggled Chinese mobile phones.
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