Although the North Korean media and authorities are exerting themselves to contrive a festive mood for Kim Jong Il’s birthday tomorrow, there appears to be no central “holiday distribution” this year. The resultant public reaction is, understandably, mostly one of indifference.
A source from North Hamkyung Province reported to The Daily NK today, “The authorities conventionally provide the people with between five and ten days of rice or corn three days in advance, but as of this morning, the 15th, there has been no provision.”
According to the source, there have not even been gifts for cadres. These particularly special gifts, which normally consist of liquor, meat and other foods, are usually delivered to cadres five days ahead of the birthday itself.
However, the source conceded, “Ten days of corn has been provided to workers in munitions factories in North Hamkyung Province.” The military-industrial complex in North Korea is traditionally better served than any other sector, so this is not surprising.
In addition, the source said that another key tradition, the centralized provision of approximately a kilo of candy, gum and cookies for each child in the country, is going ahead this year as normal, while those provinces and enterprises with financial clout may be able to provide distribution on a local level.
Regardless, given that “special holiday distribution” and two days off on Kim Jong Il’s birthday have traditionally been used to emphasize the leader’s benevolence and charity, this failure to provide distribution, with its negative effect on the reputation of the leader, looks like a reliable reflection of current economic difficulties.
Despite these limitations, however, the media has been releasing stories about commemorative performances by North Koreans residing in Japan, delivery of gifts for North Korean diplomats, mysterious natural phenomenon and the like, all to try and raise a festive atmosphere.
Chosun Central News Agency reported today, “Airplanes carrying General Kim Jong Il’s warmhearted gifts flew to remote islands in the West Sea such as Seo, Jamae, Seok, Sun, Nak, Daehwa, Ga and Tando Island. Those who greet the airplanes every year are deeply touched by the great charity of the General, who is concerned about and takes more care of children far from him than those close by.”
A few days previous to that, KCNA claimed, “As it has been getting warmer around Jong Il Peak since late January, right now, on February 10th in the valley of Sobaeksu, willow bloomed nine days earlier than in previous years.”
In a special article published by Rodong Shinmun, it further stated, “The birthday of Chairman Kim Jong Il is February 16th, and the number of peaks on Mt. Baekdu is mysteriously 216.”
As far as commemorative events for Kim Jong Il’s birthday are concerned, the South Korean Ministry of Unification asserted on Monday that things are much the same as normal.
Tomorrow, the day of Kim’s birthday, an annual commemorative exhibition of Kimjongilia is set to be attended by workers, students, overseas resident organizations and foreigners, while there are also assorted photo and art exhibitions, and athletics competitions to be carried out nationwide.
KCNA announced on the 10th, “Facing General Kim Jong Il’s birthday, various festive events are underway. The 20th International Figure Skating Festival and commemorative synchronized swimming performances for February 16th will create a holiday atmosphere.”