North Korea recently ordered officials to prepare “the largest-ever celebratory events” for the 80th birthday of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il on Feb. 16 and the 110th birthday of late national founder Kim Il Sung on Apr. 15.

Sources in the country told Daily NK yesterday that the authorities also ordered events focused on celebrating North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s 10th anniversary of gaining power.

All this suggests that the authorities have ordered officials to make active use of the period to emphasize the legitimacy of the current leader, even as they highlight the accomplishments of his predecessors while marking their birthdays.

A Daily NK source in Pyongyang said Wednesday that the Central Committee recently issued an order to all organizations designating the period between Feb. 16 and Apr. 25 as the “greatest celebratory period of the nation.” 

Specifically, the Central Committee issued the order to make Feb. 16 to Apr. 15 the “greatest celebratory period of the nation, embodying the passion of the party, military and people,” according to a Pyongyang-based source yesterday.

Meanwhile, a Daily NK military source in the country’s Ministry of Defense also confirmed yesterday that the Central Committee’s order had been issued to the entire military by way of the military’s party committee. 

Multiple sources have reported that the celebratory period will kick off with Kim Jong Il’s 80th birthday, followed by the anniversary of Kim Jong Un’s appointment as first party secretary on Apr. 11, the anniversary of his appointment as first chairperson of the Central Military Commission on Apr. 13, Kim Il Sung’s 110th birthday and, lastly, the 130th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army on Apr. 25.

Statues of Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung
Statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang. / Image: Rodong Sinmun

This is the first time since 1992 that the authorities have ordered around two months of celebrations. That year, Kim Il Sung celebrated his 80th birthday while Kim Jong Il marked his 50th, and it was also the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army. Nineteen-ninety two was, like this year, chock full of anniversaries of multiples of ten, anniversary years that North Korea takes seriously.

North Korean authorities are also celebrating the 10th anniversary of Kim Jong Un’s appointment as the party’s first secretary because they view this as the official start of his administration.

Kim’s rule technically began when he was named the supreme commander of the North Korean military on Dec. 30, 2011, the same month his father and immediate predecessor Kim Jong Il died. However, he officially took power in April the following year, after he ascended to first secretary and first chairperson of the Central Military Commission, the highest positions in the party and state, respectively.

In fact, the Central Committee’s order called this year “deeply significant” as it marks the 10th anniversary of Kim’s elevation to the highest ranks of the party and state.

The Central Committee underlined in its order that all party, state, and military organizations will be subject reviews concerning their loyalty to the general secretary (Kim) based on how well they organize celebratory events, distribute gifts and holiday rations, and their success in preventing incidents or accidents. 

Moreover, the Central Committee ordered officials to focus on “praising accomplishments and the Great Leaders” to ensure the period feels like a national festival, the “likes of which will never be seen again.”

The authorities appear intent to promote regime solidarity by mobilizing the North Korean people – already struggling with economic difficulties due to the coronavirus pandemic – for large-scale political events.

One of the sources claimed that the authorities were coercing further loyalty to the party and Kim rather than “soothing the suffering masses.” He added that the people will be “really exhausted” by all the fanfare because March and April are busy agricultural times.

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