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Park Chung Hee's 100th to follow Kim Il Sung's 105th

Lee Young Jin, Research Fellow of the Institute of North Korea Studies (former director of North Korean intelligence service director in North Korea)  |  2017-04-20 13:52
April is a month when nature and people rejuvenate and enjoy the promise of spring. The emerging blossoms and sprouts imbue a sense of wonder and excitement. The middle of this fine month also marks the arrival of Kim Il Sung's birth anniversary, for which the North Korean authorities undertake significant efforts in preparing for the celebrations.

In the mid-1960s, when the Ten Principles for the Establishment of a Monolithic Ideological System was established, the North Korean regime began to create an unparalleled cult of personality around Kim Il Sung, ordering people to worship him. In this context, Kim Il Sungs birthday was declared a national holiday in February 1969, and was also designated as the greatest national holiday for the people on April 1974. In 1997, the third year of Kim Il Sung's death, the regime began to use the Juche system of calendar and again elevated Kim Il Sung's birthday, declaring it as the Day of the Sun.

Scores of events underpin the holiday, including mass rallies, sports competitions, arts exhibitions, and youth pilgrimages along the same road purportedly traveled by Kim Il Sung in 1923. It is claimed that at age 12, he set off from Badaogou in Manchuria for his home in Mankyungdae, traveling for 14 days to fulfill the words of his father Kim Hyong Jik, who told him, You must know the fatherland. 

Being the 105th anniversary, this years festivities saw even more fanfare. The regime has proceeded with a Central Report Meeting, mass worship at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, an open-air celebration party, and promotions within the military. A demonstration of 'military power' was also held, against the backdrop of a hard-line stance by the Trump administration through a large military parade and the (failed) test launch of a ballistic missile.

Notably, November 17 this year will also be the 100th anniversary of former President Park Chung Hee's birthday. But this event is unlikely to be celebrated widely as his daughter, the impeached president Park Geun Hye, faces trial. 

Park Chung Hee, who once belonged to Namrodang (the Communist Party of Korea), became president through the May 16 Coup and kickstarted the countrys economy through the first Five Year Economic Plan. This was followed by Saemaul Undong (or New Village Movement), a plan to modernize South Koreas rural economy, together with export-led industrialization. Subsequently, South Korea rapidly gained a lead over the North in economic growth.

This was much to the ire of Kim Il sung, who tried to eliminate his South Korean rival. On January 21, 1968, a North Korean strike team led by Kim Shin Jo almost reached the Blue House (the Korean presidential residence) but failed, and in August 15, 1974, North Korea dispatched a sniper to an event hall for the celebration of Liberation Day (at the Jangchung Gymnasium in South Korea) to assassinate Park. The bullet missed Park, but his wife Yook Young Su was hit instead.

Kim Jong Un has claimed that he is pursuing politics for the people, following in the footsteps of his grandfather Kim Il Sung, but has in reality been ruling with ruthless terror and oppression.

North Korea has changed a lot since Kim Il Sung's era. In particular, the residents are beginning to understand the nature of the world in which they live and why they are suffering.

Kim Il Sung once said, "Where there is pressure, there must also be rebellion. It is inevitable for the oppressed people to struggle for their liberation." It may indeed be the case that these ominous words will come true.

*Edited by Yejie Kim
*Translated by Lee Farrand

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