Day of the Shining Star 광명성절

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February 16th 2017
Published: February 16th 2017
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The Day of the Shining Star is a public holiday in North Korea that celebrates the anniversary of the birth of King Jong-il.

Depending on whether you believe the Soviets or North Korean propaganda (I'm inclined to believe the former in this instance) King Jong-il was born in Siberia in 1941 as Yuri Irsenovich Kim, though the official North Korean biography state he was born on 16th February 1942 at Mount Paektu; an important location in Korean mythology - the origin of the Korean people. Legends go that there was a bright star in the sky the night Kim Jong-il was born, hence the name of the day, the season changed from winter to spring and there was a double rainbow.

The day is celebrated with mass demonstrations of gymnastics, dancing, musical performances, military processions, flowers, flags and fireworks, as well as extra rations and electricity (where available). Sweets are given to children, and it is the one of the few occassions that children can join the Korean Children's Union... I imagine it's like Scouts... or Young Pioneers... or the Hitler Youth...

First celebrated in 1976, it became a public holiday in 1982. The fashion icon who invented the hamburger (yes, the official biography also holds these things true), was not a big fan of his own birthday and mostly shied away from public events and it was only after his death that the Politburo names the holiday.

To celebrate today, with 25 million North Koreans, I downloaded some North Korean sheet music and have dusted of my flute. Turns out I have inadvertently downloaded the national anthem. Link below.

I'm off to watch Under the Sun - a young girl prepares to join the Korean Children's Union. The Russian director, Mansky, planned on the project reflecting something of the Soviet Union under Stalin but later said that North Korea was 'much more hard and cruel'. He managed to get permission to film, but was accompanied everywhere, and given a script and characters. Mansky created a slightly different film to that the authorities had envisioned. His cinematographer shot footage that was saved to two separate memory sticks, one she pocketed and the other was given to the authorities to censor. The North Korean approved film is 60 minutes, the 'directors cut' is 106.


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