North Korea orders political education for army ahead of Kim birth holiday

For soldiers exhausted from training, the new program is no cause for celebration.
By Myung Chul Lee
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North Korea orders political education for army ahead of Kim birth holiday North Korean female soldiers prepare to take a commemorative photograph in front of a flower exhibition featuring North Korea's late founder Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang, in this file photo taken by Kyodo.

North Korean soldiers must complete an educational course lionizing the country’s previous leaders ahead of the national founder’s birthday celebration, prompting complaints from some military members already exhausted by extensive winter training, sources in the military told RFA.

Kim Il Sung (1912-1994), the grandfather of current leader Kim Jong Un, was born on April 15, a major holiday now known as the “Day of the Sun.” His son and successor, Kim Jong Il (1942-2011), was born on Feb. 16, the “Day of the Shining Star.”

The two holidays solidify the cult of personality surrounding the Kim family, which has now ruled North Korea for three generations.

RFA reported in late January that citizens nationwide were forced to attend propaganda lectures ahead of the 80th Day of the Shining Star this year. Ahead of the 110th Day of the Sun, the focus is on solidifying loyalty among members of the armed forces, but the soldiers are complaining that they are overworked and need food and rest.

The new educational plan is the brainchild of the General Political Bureau. It seeks to underscore the achievements of the two late leaders, as well as draw upon them for martial inspiration, a military source in the northwestern province of North Pyongan told RFA’s Korean Service Feb. 23.

“The timing of the project will differ slightly depending on the circumstances of each unit but starting from the end of February until the Day of the Sun, lecture sessions, presentation sessions, exhibitions of publications and documentary film study sessions will be conducted in every unit with the aim of recognizing the greatness and immortal achievements of the predecessors,” said the source, who requested anonymity to speak freely.

“In addition, various idolization books such as ‘The Great Appearance of General Kim Il Sung,’ ‘Great Steps,’ and ‘Anecdote of Military-First Revolution’ were distributed to each unit,” he said.

The soldiers will also be made to update statues and portrait shrines dedicated to the two late leaders in each unit.

“A project to replace the figures of the Sun with new statues and portraits, and to replace older revolutionary history catalogs with newer ones … must be displayed before the Day of the Sun in the education room in each battalion and company,” the source said.

“The soldiers are really unhappy with this new ideological education plan. They say that what they desperately need right now is not a new catalog of revolutionary history or education about the previous leaders’ greatness. They need to eat well and have a day of rest,” he said.

The education plan asks the entire army to throw away illusions of peace and be ready for battle at any time, a military-related source in the northeastern province of North Hamgyong told RFA.

“They instructed the soldiers to … welcome the Day of the Sun while successfully completing their ongoing winter training and preparing for battle mobilization,” said the second source, who requested anonymity to speak freely.

“The soldiers have been suffering from nonstop training without proper rest since the start of the year. They have been forced to participate in various events since the beginning of the year for the Day of the Shining Star, so the officers and soldiers are exhausted,” he said.

The soldiers want to get through the Day of the Sun events quickly and hopefully rest for the remainder of the day, the second source said.

“Perhaps because this year marks the 110th anniversary of the Day of the Sun, [the authorities] are strongly pushing forward the political ideology education project. The soldiers are complaining of fatigue as they are pushing the officers and soldiers to prepare in advance.”

Translated by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.


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