Defectors Say Day of Songun Is No Holiday

Events at the 4.25 Cultural Center in Pyongyang August 24th,
marking the 54th anniversary of leader Kim Jong Il’s start of the Songun
[military-first politics] revolutionary leadership. Image: Rodong Sinmun

On August 25th, North Korea celebrated the
“Day of Songun” by promoting Kim Jong Il’s accomplishments through all branches
of state media in order to raise the morale of the people. However, defectors
reported that residents and soldiers alike were none too happy about the

The North Korean authorities sought to
override the mounting tension from the U.S.-ROK joint military exercises by
embellishing the military achievements of Kim Jong Eun and Kim Jong Il. On
August 22nd, Rodong Sinmun, the
daily propaganda publication of the Chosun Workers’ Party, mentioned the
national meeting that took place on August 24th, where the Chosun Democratic
Women’s Union performed dances and recited poetry as part of the celebrations.

On August 17th, the newspaper made mention
of the historically significant location, Dabaksol,  to evoke resident sentiments of Songun’s
alleged origins. Songun was established on January 1, 1995 by Kim Jong Il,
claiming it coincided with his visit to the Dabaksol guard post.
Subsequently, in June 2005, Kim Jong Il stated the establishment of
military-first politics to date back to August 25th, 1960, when Kim and son Kim
Jong Il carried out a joint onsite inspection of the No. 105 Ryu Kyung Su Tank
Division [the first to occupy Seoul during the Korean War] to suggest the long-held tradition of Songun.

Although there have been annual events related to Songun on August 25, the official “Day of Songun” was only established in 2010 as a national holiday. Rodong Sinmun reported on  August 25th, “The revolutionary cause of
Juche, the revolutionary cause of Songun are sure to triumph as long as the
Songun revolutionary idea indicates the road ahead of the Korean people and
there are the party’s wise leadership, the single-minded unity of the army and
people and the matchless KPA [Chosun People’s Army].” 

A North Korean defector reported to the Daily
NK on the official adoption of the national holiday, “During Kim Jong Il’s era,
Songun continued to be the champion cause. However, Kim Jong Eun tends to be
more focused on the economy or the people’s lives rather than that of the
military. If the military continues to be swept to the side, then, there is the
possibility that Kim Jong Il’s accomplishments will soon be forgotten. Thus, it
seems that the new holiday has been instituted in order to revive militarism.”

Many celebratory events have been scheduled
to take place for this major occasion. In previous years, a gala honoring male
students was organized at the 4.25 Cultural Center in Pyongyang, along with
singing and dancing by female students at the same venue, arranged by the KPA.

Another defector reported, “Whenever this
holiday nears, the media causes quite a stir while the citizens don’t give it
much attention since they tend to be very busy in August. The lawlessness of the
military doesn’t help either; thus, most view the holiday quite negatively and
not many anticipate it, despite its designation as a national holiday.”

“However, every organization
plays a part in the celebrations, be it coordinating a performance, watching
videos of the leadership, or attending commemorative lectures.” Everyone  in the Chosun People’s Army is required to
attend a ‘loyalty determination meeting,’ visit nearby historical sites, and
receive training intended to strengthen the military; thus, soldiers are not
that enthusiastic about attending these events,” he concluded.