Every year on October 10th North Korea marks one of its most significant national holidays Party Foundation Day.
The holiday officially marks the October 10th, 1945 foundation of the “Central Organizing Committee of the Communist Party of North Korea.”
This holiday is one of the most fascinating in the DPRK, being hardly celebrated in the early years of the country, to being used to showcase North Korea’s military hardware in massive parades and to showoff the next successor of the country in front of massive audiences attended by the international press.
Early History of Party Foundation Day
Pictured Above: Kim Il Sung delivers a speech on his return to Pyongyang in October 1945
To begin with on October 10th, 1945, in Pyongyang, the Central Organizing Committee of the Communist Party of North Korea was formed at a public hall, which is now known as the party founding museum. This would become a predecessor to the Workers Party of Korea and would see Kim Il Sung become a major political player.
In August 1946, the Communist Party merged with the New Democratic Party to form the Workers Party of North Korea. In June, the Workers Parties of North and South Korea joined to develop into what we now have and known as the modern Workers Party of Korea.
The Early Years and the 6th National Congress
Pictured above left to right: Images of President Kim Il Sung and General Kim Jong Il together at the 6th National Congress, A solo shot of General Kim Jong Il at the same event and a propaganda poster commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Workers Party of Korea.
Despite the date’s significance, most evidence points to the holiday first actually being celebrated in North Korea in 1958 when the Rodong Sinmun (Workers Party Newspaper) published the following blurb about the holiday.
“According to these objective demands, trustworthy communists, led by comrade Kim Il Sung have united the leading workers’ organizations, which had hastily created after the liberation and on October 10th, 1945, created a unified Party.”
Up until this date, the Rodong Sinmun had never mentioned the holiday, but every year since 1958, the paper has published a special edition with a piece commemorating the date.
On October 10th, 1968, the holiday took place on the back burner when a special edition was released to honour the one year death of Che Guevara, who was executed one year prior on October 9th, 1967.
This year’s edition carried a speech given by President Kim Il Sung in remembrance of Che Guevera.
On October 10th, 1975, a monument was constructed on the Party Founding Museum’s grounds to mark the holiday’s 30th occasion.
October 10th, 1980 (the 35th anniversary of Party Foundation Day) marked the beginning of the 6th Congress of the Workers Party of Korea held in the February 8th house of culture in Pyongyang. The congress is the highest level of the party and is supposed to be held every four years, although this rarely happens (the next one was held in 2016).
At the event on October 10th, 1980, General Kim Jong Il was officially appointed as the successor to his father. It is highly likely that this announcement was intentional to coincide with such an important date.
To mark the 50th anniversary of Party Foundation Day in 1995, the DPRK unveiled one of it’s most iconic monuments, the Monument to the Party Founding, which was completed on October 10th, 1995 and designed by the Mansudae Art Studio. The monument features a hammer, sickle and calligraphy brush representing the workers, farmers, and intellectuals. Wrapping around the monument is a belt with the inscription “Long live the leader and organizer of the victories of the people of Korea, the Worker’s Party of Korea!”. Inside the monument, there are three bronze murals, each with its own respective meaning: the party’s historical root, the unity of people under the party, and the party’s vision for a progressive future.
The New Era of Party Foundation Day: Military Parades
1995 became a significant year in the history of Party Foundation Day not only for the Party Foundation Monument but also because it became the first time a military parade was held on the date of the holiday. It was also the first parade presided under Kim Jong Il as the new leader of the country.
Video above: Rare footage of the 1995 Party Foundation Day military parade
This would become a staple every 5 years from now on and in 2000 and 2005 (the 55th and 60th anniversaries) also saw significant military parades held in Pyongyang to mark the date. Both parades were presided over by General Kim Jong Il.
In 2010 on the 65th anniversary of the holiday, then successor Kim Jong Un appeared alongside his father, General Kim Jong Il, for the first time at a military parade. This came just two weeks after Kim Jong Un had been appointed as Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea and made a Daejang (대장), which means four-star general.
This parade strongly indicated that Kim Jong Un would succeed his father and marked the first time the international press was given full access to a North Korean military parade.
In 2015 General Kim Jong Un continued on the tradition of holding a military parade to mark significant dates. On the 70th anniversary, a parade was held and was attended by then Chinese First Secretary of the Secretariat of the Communist Party of China Liu Yunshan.
An announcement before the parade also announced that the 7th Party Congress would be held in the upcoming year. As mentioned above, this would be the first time the country’s highest political organ would meet together since 1980.
Party Foundation Day 2020 (75th Anniversary)
Pictured Above: Two new posters released in promotion of the upcoming holiday. The first one features the party Founding Museum, the red party flag and a bunch of flowers along with letters “The Celebration of the 75th Founding Anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea”.
The second poster displays “The Highest Glory to our Great Party!” depicts a worker, peasant and intellectual holding high a hammer, sickle and writing brush against a display of fireworks in nocturnal sky and torchlight parades.
It remains to be seen if 2020 also the 75th Anniversary of Party Foundation Day will feature a military parade due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic however most indication points to one being held with the viewing observation deck in Kim Il Sung square going under major renovations recently and practise being held around the city for the past few months.
How Does North Korea Celebrate the Holiday?
In the morning, North Koreans will often begin the holiday by laying a floral basket at politically important sites around the country and swaths of Koreans will flock to Kumsusan Palace of the Sun and Mansudae Grand Monuments to pay their respects to their leaders.
Like most national holidays in North Korea, television will start broadcasting earlier than normal and last until later in the evening typically showing footage from the day’s celebrations and historical footage related to the founding of the Workers Party of Korea.
Koreans will also usually receive extra foodstuffs and rations from the government such as cooking oil, rice or sweets during the holiday period.
Since Marshal Kim Jong Un took over the reins of the country he has also made a visit to Kumsusan Palace of the Sun every year on the occasion of Party Foundation Day and visitors to the Mansudae Grand Monument will notice a floral basket presented from him at the base of the statues.
Throughout the evening and afternoon, local Pyongyang parks will be full of holidaymakers enjoying the last of the warm weather before Koreas cold winter sets in with swarms of locals enjoying themselves with BBQ, drinking, karaoke and dancing.
Mass Dances performed by university students and housewives are performed around the city at politically important sites such as the Monument to the Party Founding, Kim Il Sung Square and the Pyongyang indoor theatre.
Special performances such as fireworks, concerts, circuses and magic shows are also held around the country for Koreans to enjoy on their day off.
North Korea has also used the holiday to open major construction projects. For example, slated to open on October 10th, 2020 is the Pyongyang General Hospital one of the country’s top projects of 2020.
Finally of course and as mentioned above if it is a jubilee anniversary of the holiday Koreans will also line the streets to try and get a view of the military parade procession.
Visiting North Korea During Party Foundation Day
Between the events mentioned above that are generally open to foreigners, to the warm weather accompanied by Koreas stunning fall foliage and a chance to meet Koreans while they are enjoying time off work it really does not get much better than this.
We run several tours to cover the Party Foundation Day celebrations. Our annual visit to Mt. Kumgang runs in conjunction to the festivities and is one of our major tour highlights of the year. We can also plan bespoke independent tours to North Korea around Party Foundation Day perfectly tailored to your tastes, budget, and desired tour length.