April is packed with political events in North Korea, from Kim Il Sung's birthday on the 15th to the Korean People’s Army Foundation Day on the 25th. But these celebrations are not all fun and games for ordinary residents. On the contrary, to prepare for the anniversary events and military inspections that occur throughout the month, a general mobilization order has been handed down to Pyongyang residents and military personnel. To fund the events, the authorities are demanding financial contributions.
“Military units based in the Pyongyang vicinity and residents of the capital city have been kept extremely busy with preparations for festivities related to Kim Il Sung's birthday and the Korean People’s Army Foundation Day,” a source in South Pyongan Province reported in a telephone call with Daily NK on April 14. “Because Kim Il Sung's birthday and Military Foundation Day are occurring back to back this year, the stress is really piling up more than in previous years.”
Kim Il Sung’s birthday and Military Foundation Day are celebrated each year, but festivities expand to monumental proportions every 5 years. This will be the 105th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth and the 85th anniversary of the foundation of the KPA. For this reason, even children are participating in the general mobilization order this year.
“The plazas, empty lots, and stadiums in downtown Pyongyang are packed with students and residents practicing for events. The air strips at Mirim Airport are buzzing with soldiers practicing for the military inspections. Classes were cancelled so that middle school and university students could practice late into the night,” the source continued.
“Soldiers have pitched their tents near the airfield. They're practicing their marching steps all day long by stomping around on the unforgiving concrete surface of the airstrips. Pyongyang residents and students are packing up their lunches and reporting to the training areas at 8am to participate in at least 12 hours of training and service.”
In fact, according to the source, the authorities have demanded that housewives not only contribute a "relief fund" but also ordered them to cook and deliver snacks and side dishes for the military. The neighborhood watch (inminban) leaders have demanded a sum of 30,000 KPW from each household. In lieu of money, households can contribute other necessities, like side dishes, socks, or soap.
Pyongyang residents weren't the only ones to shell out for the event, however, said a separate source in South Pyongan Province. “Residents in the surrounding areas have also had to submit loyalty payments and contribute food and material to the military. State factories and schools were mobilized to participate in a wide array of activities related to the festivities including loyalty song meetings, anniversary lectures, and meetings with veterans,”she explained.
“Inminban leaders are spreading rumors that this year’s holiday gifts from the authorities to the residents will be diverse and interesting, but this news is being met with skepticism. Word is that each family will receive spring underwear, beer, meat, and candy. But because the army suppliers are also asking for packing materials from the residents, the gifts are causing even more discontent.”
Asked about the resident’s reactions, she concluded, “Many residents, who have been preparing for months for the April events, are referring to April as ‘the month of death,’ [a wordplay on the pronunciation of ‘April,’ a homonym for the Chinese character that means ‘death’], and some students say the month should be 'erased' altogether."