Halloween (or Hallowe’en, for old-school purists) is that very spooky time of year when people tell ghost stories, terrible horror movies are released, and the Americans adopt the flimsiest of excuses to dress as slutty nurses and superheroes.
North Korea tend to do things a little bit differently, and although Korean folk tales definitely delve into the bizarre and the macabre, the more modern Juche ideology is devoid of supernatural elements. From a religious standpoint, North Korea has elements of native shamanism, but tends much more towards atheism.
Where does that leave Halloween? Do North Koreans even celebrate Halloween?
Halloween as a celebration isn’t actually celebrated in North Korea (we’ll talk about what WE do in North Korea later), but North Korea has a number of ghosts and ghoulies that are still used to put the fear of, well, not God into the youth. Yes – even in these socialist times.
The Korean term for ‘ghost’ is gwisin. Gwisin can be found in all the usual places you’d expect to find a ghost: forests, abandoned buildings and (naturally) under the beds of children are all valid hiding places for wrathful spectres, and North Korean parents share in the time-honoured tradition of threatening their children with supernatural consequences if they don’t eat their veggies/go to bed on time/do as they’re told.
Being a secular state, North Koreans also like to use the genuine fear of genuine animal, the tiger, which in fairness is an actual animal that could eat you if it was really under your bed.
We digress, however. Returning to the idea of Halloween in North Korea, which is after all our mission statement for this blog – we usually run at least one tour during this period. Whilst we don’t exactly go trick or treating (though watch this space on that front!) or dress up in funny clothes, feel free to bring a costume along with you and see what happens.