02/17/2015, 00.00
NORTH KOREA
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Pyongyang’s schizophrenia infects the calendar: New Year changes (again)

Over the past two decades, North Korea celebrated the Lunar New Year along with the rest of Asia. Kim Jong-un "quashes" this tradition and states the solar New Year (January 1), the only real "celebration of the beginning of the year." His grandfather Kim Il-sung had abolished the traditional celebrations, and then brought them back into vogue; as had his father Kim Jong-il.

Seoul (AsiaNews) - The Lunar New Year, celebrated throughout Asia, "is a useless and superstitious tradition. The beginning of the year should be celebrated January 1. Only the solar New Year makes sense, the rest is a waste of time". This is stated in a directive issued a few days ago by the Central Commission of the Workers' Party, North Korea's decision-making body directly answerable to the young dictator Kim Jong-un.

The text is a norm of law and removes what is the most popular holiday on the continent: instead of five days of public celebrations there will be only one February 19, the first day of the Lunar New Year, and extra food rations will not be distributed. Over the past 20 years, the country had celebrated the arrival of the new moon. However, extreme poverty and the inability to manage public funds - that end up in the pockets of loyalists of the regime or to fund its nuclear program - have made public holidays sad celebrations in which the government has been forced to show its lack of resources.

For the people of North Korea, this change is hardly a first-time occurrence. Back in 1967, Kim Il Sung declared the Lunar New Year holiday "an outdated practice running counter to socialist practices", decreeing that people would thereafter celebrate New Year's according to the solar calendar. However in 1989 the same "eternal president" ordered the resumption of traditional festivities "as a further sign of the superiority of Korean culture to that of the rest of the world, which is depraved and without morals."

The son and heir, the "Dear Leader" Kim Jong-il, was faithful to the dictates of his father except for two new years - those of 1996 and 1997 - which he celebrated on January 1st. In 2003 he established the tradition of granting five-day festival to the population and, thanks to funds sent from South Koreans under the policy of detente, he made gave every child a present. However, the escalation of international sanctions after the nuclear tests and regime change have over turned the national calendar.

 

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