Anyone with more than a passing interest in the affairs of North Korea is well acquainted with the fact that they have quite a sizeable number of celebrations. Two of the most important of these are related to the birthdays of the first two leaders – namely the birthday of Kim Jong Il (‘The Day of the Shining Star’) on February 16th, and Kim Il Sung’s birthday (‘The Day of the Sun’) on April 15th. Given his importance to the country, Kim Il Sung’s birthday not only marks his birth but also represents the first day of the new Juche calendar year (a unique system that deserves its own explanation).
Day of the Sun: the history
Kim Il Sung was born on April 15th in Mangyongdae (a place most tourists to the country visit), on the outskirts of Pyongyang. His original birth name was actually Kim Song Ju, but during the 1930s he adopted the given name of ‘Il Sung’ as his nom de guerre. ‘Il Sung’ literally translates as ‘to become the sun’; thus the longstanding association between he and the sun was born.
To state the obvious: the Day of the Sun is one of the major celebrations of the year in North Korea. If you visit during this time you can expect mass dances, fireworks, military parades (on occasion) and more than a passing chance of dancing with locals in the park. Such are the heights of their revelry that you may well be treated to Korean barbecue and lashings of soju!