Most countries throughout the world observe
some type of national day to celebrate their founding, be it July 4th in the
United States, October 1st in China, or August 15th here in South Korea. North
Korea is no exception, celebrating its foundation as a nation today. It is, however, an exception in the distortion applied to events taking
place on September 9th.
According to North Korea’s official version
of history, the state claims that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea [DPRK,
North Korea’s official name] was established on September 9th, 1948. Nevertheless,
it is known that this day in history was entirely bereft of even a mention, let alone a
grand declaration, announcing the DPRK’s birth, nor was there an
inaugural hoisting of the nations’ flag. Obviously, this begs the question: why was today selected as North Korea’s Foundation Day? To this end, the author will
unearth a few obscure historical points to offer insight into this curious case.
It is well known that following the end of
Imperial Japan the USSR established a puppet state in the northern regions of
Korea. Political reasons reigned supreme, and as such matters regarding
unification placed at the forefront of the proceeding discussions. More specifically, this status would allow the Soviet Union to expand its range of
influence into the South and the immediate creation of a separate state
would reflect poorly on the USSR’s global perception.
In 1947, however, things shifted
significantly as the Soviets prepared the northern annex of the Korean
Peninsula to declare its status as a sovereign state. These preparations
included inducing the North Korean proto-government to prepare a draft of the
constitution, which would later be sent to Moscow and furiously edited by Communist Party officials. Nothing escaped Soviet remit; in fact, soviet
officials even presided over the design of a future North Korean flag–its
description appearing in great detail in the draft constitution before its
Following South Korea’s announcement plans for Constitutional Assembly elections on May 10th, 1948, the Soviets sprung
into action. On July 10th, 1948, the Fifth Session of the People’s Assembly for
the northern annex of Korea enacted the DPRK constitution, but only in regions
to the north of the 38th parallel, in a remarkably, if expected, simple
sequence of events.
The vice-chairman of the Assembly, Choe Yong
Gon, formally addressed its members to inquire if any opinions were held
regarding the constitution. There were, of course, none. A vote quickly
followed, revealing a full majority in favor of the document. Choe then proudly
trumpeted that the Constitution of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
had been “unanimously adopted without any amendments!” by a special session of the People’s Assembly for northern Korea.
Thunderous applause ensued, senior member
of the Assembly Kim Tu Bong brought down the traditional Korean Flag of the
Great Extremes hoisted behind the tribune and replaced it with the North Korean
flag; Choe subsequently announced that the constitution of the DPRK was in effect.
Choe’s announcement that the constitution
was in effect marked North Korea’s actual Foundation Day–July 10th–in a clear, stated act solidifying the division on the Korean Peninsula. So, then,
why is this day not a recognized holiday in North Korea?
The answer lies in tactic: North Korea
wanted to present itself as ruling body over the entirety of the peninsula. To
this end, Pyongyang conducted the “elections” to the Supreme People’s Assembly
on August 25th. These, needless to say, were not elections by any stretch of
The procedure following the Soviet tradition of one candidate
per district in the running, with a preordained list of candidates selected by
Colonel General Terentii Shtykov–the true figure at the helm of nascent North
Korea. Moreover, in one of its most blatant falsifications to date, North Korea
announced that 77.5% of South Korean population at the time participated in the
On September 2nd of the same year, the SPA
assembled to reach a decision as to whether the DPRK constitution should extend
to incorporate the entire peninsula. It ultimately ruled in favor of such a decision on September 8th. September 9th–our topic of interest in this
case–saw nothing more than Kim Il Sung appointment a cabinet of ministers,
again, all personally selected by General Shtykov.
Incidentally, September 9th was also the
date the USSR formally recognized the DPRK and appointed Shtykov as the Soviet
Ambassador. All things considered, what we can draw from this case is that that North
Korea’s Foundation Day is yet another Soviet construction, much like most every aspect of the country during the initial stages of its existence.
*Views expressed in Guest Columns are not necessarily those of the Daily NK.