This October the Worker’s Party of Korea has been in charge of North Korea for 68 years and to celebrate, the whole country will take part in a national holiday!
However, in a country where the majority of North Korea’s population suffer a life of misery due to fear of starvation or hypothermia (temperatures can reach -25°C in winter months), is there anything worth actually celebrating?
For all its time in charge of the country, the WPK can be seen to have acted as a totalitarian dictatorship that taps telephone calls, rations luxuries and censors its media.
Despite this strict rule, there is no doubt that all citizens will take part in the celebrations. After all, they have no choice. To not participate would likely lead to being sentenced to work in a labour camp for the rest of their life, with their children and grandchildren facing the same punishment. North Korea has a very strict ‘three generations punishment’ policy.
There was hope when the country’s current leader, Kim Jong Un, took control in 2011 that he might bring in a number of reforms, and in some areas he has. Since he came to power, pictures of women wearing miniskirts and high heels have reached South Korea. This is completely different to the leader’s father’s rule when all citizens were forced to wear Mao-style work uniforms.
Furthermore, he recently opened a third public swimming pool in the capital city, Pyongyang (before Kim’s rule there was only one swimming pool available to the public) and, unusually, he held a second session of Parliament in a single year in 2012 to discuss education reform and extending compulsory education from age 11 to 12.
However, since his inauguration, the leader has also stepped up the rhetoric on threatening to attack the neighbouring South Korea, in the hope of unifying the two countries under WPK rule. He also recently ordered his ex-girlfriend’s execution for posing in photos that Kim believes to have been too sexual.
This week all citizens will mark the anniversary of their ‘great party’ by visiting the statues of the country’s two previous leaders and attending performances sanctioned by the state.
For North Korea’s citizens, 68 years of WPK rule has marked 68 years of oppression under the rule of a corrupt regime and none of them are under any illusions that there is any chance of real reform in North Korea any time soon.