Official 2017 calendar seen as out of touch

North Korea’s official 2017 calendar produced by Pyongyang Publishing House features photos of luxury food that most of its population cannot afford.
In a copy of the 2017 calendar obtained by Daily NK, various photos of luxury dishes are included, many of which are unfamiliar to ordinary citizens. The images include sturgeon, catfish, turkey, and goose dishes, together with their recipes. There is also a photo of a braised ox foot, which is notable as the private breeding and buying/selling of cows was only legalized last year.
Most ordinary people are baffled, said one North Korean resident from Pyongsong, South Pyongan Province, noting that he himself, “didn’t understand it at all.”
“The only people who can eat sturgeon are Central Party cadres and trade workers, or people invited for special reasons to Pyongyang. I honestly want to ask the authorities whether they gave any thought to how ordinary residents would perceive this ‘pie in the sky’ calendar.”  
In North Korea, official state calendars were once seen as status symbols, as they were only supplied to executives until the late 1990s. However, since the early 2000s, state-owned publishing companies began mass producing the calendars in cooperation with private investors, which led to their wider distribution.
The calendars mostly featured landscape paintings or photos of actors in the past, but since Kim Jong Un came to power, there has been a tendency to insert various propaganda photos to promote his alleged achievements. Normally, photos and paintings featured in calendars are decided by the publisher, but in North Korea, the authorities have a strong influence on the subject matter. 
For example, a calendar published by the Korea Stamp Company introduces locations considered to be propaganda tools to promote the leader’s ‘love for the people,’ including the Pyongyang Nursing Home, Yonphung Scientists’ Rest Home and Science & Technology Center, Mirae (Future) Scientists Street, and the aviation history display at Pyongyang Sunan International Airport. In addition, a calendar with photos of Air Koryo flight attendants was published for the first time. It would be unusual for most North Korean residents to even visit Pyongyang, let alone meet a flight attendant.
A source in Ryanggang Province noted, “The authorities may have thought that showing luxurious photos in the calendar would please the residents, but many are offended because they are so far from their reality. It’s hard to understand why they showed these photos of expensive dishes when most people will never taste them .”
North Korea’s 2017 calendar features 71 days of note, including national holidays, traditional holidays, and Sundays, indicating a two-day increase in the number of holidays compared to last year.
In particular, “Day of the Strategic Force” has been officially marked as July 3 on the new calendar following its establishment as a holiday in July 2016. Observers have suggested that the regime has introduced the day, which honors the military unit responsible for North Korea’s missile and nuclear development, to instill pride and to legitimize the country’s nuclear armament at the same time.
Kang Mi Jin
Kang Mi Jin is a North Korean defector turned journalist who fled North Korea in 2009. She has a degree in economics and writes largely on marketization and economy-related issues for Daily NK. Questions about her articles can be directed to