◆ It’s the biggest holiday in North Korea…
April 15 is the “Day of the Sun,” or Kim Il Sung’s birthday. It is the country’s biggest holiday and every year North Korea’s leader hands out gifts to different areas and workplaces. In the past, people received rice, alcohol, cigarettes, school materials and school uniforms. The recent economic troubles the country is facing has lowered the quality and quantity of the gifts handed out in areas outside of Pyongyang. What special rations are being handed out this year? ASIAPRESS asked this question to a reporting partner in the northern part of the country. (KANG Ji-won)
“A,” a reporting partner in Hyesan, the biggest city in Yanggang Province, told ASIAPRESS:
“People are not getting rice or corn. State-run food shops have distributed toothbrushes and soap for doing laundry. State-run companies and factories, meanwhile, have handed out special rations to employees alone. There are differences depending on the workplace, but at the Hyesan coal mine, workers got seven kilograms of corn each.”
◆ Just one piece of laundry soap
“B,” a reporting partner in Musan County, North Hamgyung Province, provided ASIAPRESS with a similar report. Musan Mine is the country’s largest, boasting around 10,000 employees. Workers at the mine were given five kilograms of corn.
“Originally, the mine authorities prepared Chinese white rice (to hand out), but they sold (the rice) and bought corn instead so they could hand out larger amounts to the workers.”
Currently, the market price of one kilogram of white rice is double the price of one kilogram of corn. In short, the amount of white rice that Musan Mine had acquired to hand out to its workers was no more than 2.5 kilograms per worker. That amount was considered so small that the mine authorities replaced it for corn so the workers could get a larger amount of grain. But what did ordinary people in Musan get?
“Each household got just one piece of soap for doing the laundry, nothing else,” said “B.”
Originally, the special rations handed out on the “Day of the Sun” were supposed to be gifts showing the leader’s regard for his people. The lack of government funds, however, has made the state-led distribution of such gifts impossible; instead, state-run companies must prepare and distribute the gifts themselves. ASIAPRESS reporting partners said that the government provides almost no support to companies in this regard. That’s why there are differences in the amount and quality of the gifts handed out to workers in different areas.
ASIAPRESS was unable to obtain information about the distribution of special rations in Pyongyang and other areas.
◆ Propaganda machine works hard to promote Kim Il Sung’s authority
“A” complained to ASIAPRESS that to celebrate Kim Il Sung’s birthday “the government has put together more gatherings to sing songs of loyalty, rallies and study sessions about the greatness of the Supreme Leader this year compared to last year. It’s really tiring.”
Kim Il-sung died around 30 years ago, making him an unfamiliar leader young people only know through videos. Kim Jong-un, however, likely does not appreciate the image of his grandfather fading away given that he is part of Kim Il-sung’s revered “Mt. Paektu Bloodline.”
Despite providing nothing more than poor quality special rations, the government’s move to increase events to honor the deceased statesman is likely a necessity for the Kim Jong-un regime to ensure it continues to exist into perpetuity.
※ ASIAPRESS communicates with its reporting partners through Chinese cell phones smuggled into North Korea.
A portrait of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il on display at the center of a city. The portrait is subject to high levels of security. Taken by ASIAPRESS in March 2013 in Pyongsong, South Pyongan Province.
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