Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership
Was Kim Jong-un’s birthday an invisible event? There were not parades or fireworks in Pyongyang this past Friday, and a list of editorials or Party statements has not yet appeared in the North Korean press. Rodong Sinmun did publish an editorial which said in part: “A cannon salute brightens up our future following the leading party … which is a huge event in our history,” it said. “Rays of light which will open a new era of prosperity on our land are everywhere.” Yonhap’s Sam Kim notes the editorial proposes a toast: “Toast, toast to the endlessly bright future of Chosun (North Korea) that will resemble the shape of the sun and the holy land of Baekdu.” But Mr. Kim was careful to note that a large birthday celebration this does not make, quoting an ROK official who remarked, “There is no effort underway to designate Jan. 8 as a public anniversary, but movements are popping up here and there.” Kyungnam University Professor Kim Keun-shik told Yonhap: “It’s premature to think that Kim Jong-eun’s birthday has become a national holiday.”
Daily NK offered a pair of stories on possible Jong-un birthday celebrations. Kim Jong-un’s birth day would likely be all-day, indoor, sit-down affairs for KWP and KPA officials: “The North Korean authorities will hold lectures regarding the succession and commemorative events on Kim Jong Eun’s birthday, proclaiming it a day of national significance. However, events are not public, but to be held within the Party and military.” A report said of the day in question: “On the 8th of January, workers all over the country were involved in athletics competitions, cultural performances and loyalty singing gatherings. In provincial party organizations, there were lectures for cadres listening to recorded materials distributed by the Central Committee of the Party.”
The bulletin of the Korean Central News Agency for 8 January had an opaque report about “many poems and words of songs encouraging the army and people of the DPRK in the advance for a great surge.” The “great surge” may be a reference to succession or to a hereditary successor.” And if a nationwide call out to KWP cadres, cell leaders and guidance officers did go into effect and they were summoned to Pyongyang, the restaurants on Changgwang Street have been spruced up. Of particular interest is what sounds to be a pub: “Wonderful is the central hall of the Porter House with a pipe connected directly with a black beer producer.” Another English entry to the North Korean vernacular, perhaps, go with CNC. The possible appearance of a pub may be adduced to the European childhood of a certain Swiss-educated successor. The early 1980’s reconstruction of Changgwang Street was a resume in Kim Jong-il’s own succession drive. It also helps that Changgwang Street is down the street from his office, official residence and personal medial clinic and entertainment buildings.
Missing from the current Kim Jong-un birthday narrative are indications of pseudonymous essays or veneration campaigns of Jong-un’s mother Ko Yong-hui. Public tributes and allusions to Ms. Ko sporadically appeared in North Korean media from 2002 to 2005 and reappeared in the fall of 2008.