Holidays

N. Korea gives 1 day for Chuseok with leaders’ birthdays celebrated on larger scale

SEOUL, Oct. 2 (Yonhap) — North Koreans are given a single day’s holiday for Chuseok, the traditional Korean autumn harvest feast, in contrast to the more extravagant manner in which its late leaders’ birthdays are celebrated.

South Koreans have entered into a unusually long 10-day holiday for Chuseok, which falls on Wednesday, as the normally three-day holiday is preceded and followed by other national holidays and weekends this year.

Since 1945, when the Korean Peninsula was divided after its liberation from colonial Japan, the time-honored celebration for Koreans was not observed in the North until the communist country reinstated it in 1989 as a folk holiday.

During those years, the traditional holiday was denounced as being “in breach of the manners of socialism” in North Korea, according to a press release by the Ministry of Unification.

Chuseok is now one of North Korea’s 18 national holidays, but it is observed in a much more modest way than in the South, as the communist country puts more emphasis on celebrating politically important events, such as the birthdays of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung on April 15 and his successor Kim Jong-il on Feb. 16. Two-day holidays are given for those anniversaries, the ministry said.

Still, North Koreans spend the traditional celebration carrying out festive activities similar to those done by their southern counterparts: North Koreans visit their ancestors’ graves and bow in a memorial service for them. They eat the same half-moon-shaped rice cake for the holiday as South Koreans do.

But North Koreans customarily visit the statue of Kim Il-sung at the Mansudae complex in central Pyongyang and honor the founder first before moving on to honor their own ancestors, the ministry said.

Another notable difference in North Korea is a lack of travelers heading for their hometowns to reunite with their families and friends, which is often seen in South Korea during the Chuseok holiday season.

“There’s hardly any movement between regions,” the ministry said, a phenomenon possibly attributable to the North Korean regime’s tight control of people’s movement.

pbr@yna.co.kr

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