DPRK celebrates lunar new year in its own style

KCNA reported that North Koreans celebrated the lunar new year by paying tribute to Kim Jong-il:

On the lunar New Year’s Day, the Korean people are ardently yearning for the leader Kim Jong Il.
People are seen laying flowers or floral baskets before portraits of smiling Kim Jong Il displayed throughout the country, recollecting the undying feats he performed for the country and the people.
An old man, Ri Thaek Ju, living in Sosong District, Pyongyang, told KCNA, “I don’t think the leader left his people. He is among the people. He is greeting the Lunar New Year with us.”

They also laid floral baskets at Kim Il-sung statues (video here):

Floral baskets were placed before the statues of President Kim Il Sung in different parts of the country on the lunar New Year 2012.
Service personnel and Pyongyangites from all walks of life and school youth and children and overseas compatriots staying in the socialist homeland, visited his statue on Ryongnam Hill to pay tribute to him.

…And they also performed plays offering well wishes to Kim Jong-un:

Schoolchildren’s performance “Country of Eternal Sun” took place at the Mangyongdae School Children’s Palace Monday on the lunar New Year 2012.
The performance began with prelude “Please accept, the dear respected Kim Jong Un, our greetings on lunar New Year.”
The performers made a deep bow to Kim Jong Un, representing the unanimous best wishes of the younger generation of the DPRK.

So there are “three generations” of post-revolution North Koreans, and each one now has their own leader to pay homage to on Lunar New Year. Interestingly, Lunar New Year was banned by the DPRK until the 1980s as it was classified as a Chinese holiday. But why ban a cultural holiday when you can co-opt it for political purposes?

The AP also published this story.

Read more about holidays in the DPRK here.

UPDATE 1: On January 24, KCNA reported that Kim Jong-un hosted a banquet for senior members of the North Korean government.

UPDATE 2: On January 25, the Daily NK reported some very interesting information from within the DPRK which further shows how the Lunar New Year has been co-opted as a tool for the legitimization of Kim Jong-un’s rule:

A Chinese trader who resides in Pyeongseong, North Korea, arrived in Dandong on January 21 for the start of the Lunar New Year holiday period. The trader, who in this article we will call ‘John’, received permission to visit China after waiting over a month to leave the country since the death of Kim Jong Il. John met with his suppliers in Dandong to order items he would take back into North Korea, before departing for Shenyang to visit relatives.

Daily NK met with John in Shenyang on January 22 to ask him whether or not the rations announced by North Korean authorities had actually been distributed as planned. As he is a Chinese expatriate, he says he did not receive any rations this time, however “ordinary people did get them. The rations were half white rice and half mixed-grain rice.”

“Even within Pyeongseong, people got different rations depending on what street or neighborhood they live in – some got 3 days worth, others got 5. Our People’s Unit gave 3 days. But that wasn’t the problem; in one area people got grain rice mixed with corn, and the really unlucky amongst them were disappointed to find that their rations had already gone off.”

“On the way here I also heard from people living in Sinuiju who were given corn soup rather than rice of any sort,” John says. Given that corn soup costs roughly half as much to provide as other grain rations, evidently the government distributed corn-based rations in some cities and counties in order to help carry out its plan.

According to John, authorities also offered to supply fish to citizens. “They handed out coupons to buy a sailfin sandfish for 2,800 won and called this an order from Kim Jong Eun.” With this coupon citizens could head to a government-run store and purchase the fish for 2,800 won, however John says that most people declined to buy from the government-run stores when fresh sandfish could be bought from the market for 3,300 won.

Regarding crackdowns on foreign currency, John said that “It would be hard for people like me to live if the government stopped people using the Yuan. When I purchase stock I have to pay for it in Yuan, so if I wasn’t able to do that I wouldn’t be able to trade. That might end up being the case again. The ‘gruppas’ (inspection teams) are showing up to carry out crackdowns on illegal foreign exchange transactions, but this has just driven most people to do it in the privacy of their own houses.”

“Even people who lose their foreign currency in the crackdowns can get it back with a bribe. How can you stop that? Even cadres like foreign currency, so how can it work if they order a crackdown?”

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An affiliate of 38 North