Get Ready For A Military First Mothers Day

In preparation for mothers day, North Korea presents army with new "lady tiger" multiple-launch rocket systems
November 13th, 2012

Mother’s Day.  Celebrated the world over, it gives all of us a day to reflect and thank the woman who brought us into this world. This Friday (November 16th), North Korea will become the newest country to have its own Mother’s Day celebration. And they kicked off those celebrations as only North Korea can – with the presentation Monday of new Nyomaeng-ho (lady tiger) multiple-launch rocket system to units of the Korean People’s Army.

However, the differences between how most countries celebrate Mother’s Day and how North Korea celebrates Mother’s Day don’t end there. At the presentation ceremony in Hamhung, South Hamgyong Province, the chairwoman of the Democratic Women’s Union of Korea Central Committee proudly stated that the “presentation of the military equipment to the army is an expression of the ardent loyalty and patriotism by the mothers in Songun Korea…” In addition, other speakers “called upon all the women to take active part in diverse mass movements and the do-good-thing movement helpful to the building of an economic power and the improvement of the people’s living standard and make devoted efforts for society and the collective…”

Mothers day gift from the women of North Korea to the army

So while most mothers around the world get chocolate or flowers, or at least get to go to a nice breakfast with the people they love, North Korean mother’s get to make devoted efforts for society and the collective – and if they are lucky a chance to see some fancy North Korean army equipment.

This is another example of how deeply militarized North Korean society remains, but another article, published in the Workers’ Party newspaper “Rodong Sinmun”, presents a clear picture of what role mothers are specifically expected to play. A mother “heroine”, Ri Pyong Hui, receives the happy news that she was invited to the 4th National Meeting of Mothers in Pyongyang and awarded the title of “Labor Heroine” for giving birth to ten children. But as far as she’s concerned she doesn’t deserve the award, since she “[did] nothing for them. They were fed, clad and educated by the Workers’ Party of Korea, the mother party.” She then tells her children excitedly that “you must grow up quickly and become soldiers supporting the respected Marshal Kim Jong Un with arms.”

Since Kim Jong Un took over in January, the regime has done much to emphasize the state’s care for women and children. Kim Jong Un has personally inspected the recently-completed Breast Cancer Research Center twice in the past several months, which is notable because his mother, Ko Yong Hui, died of breast cancer. In addition, Kim Jong Un has made numerous visits to revolutionary schools, spoke at the 66th anniversary of the Korean Children’s Union, and inspected funfairs, ice rinks and other miscellaneous areas intended for children’s amusement.

However, as the article on the “heroine mother” shows, mothers in North Korea may be getting their own day but their role (at least in this case) is portrayed as little more than pumping out future soldiers. Hopefully, the actual mother’s day celebration on November 16th will give a bit more credit to the role mothers actually play in the lives of North Korea’s children. Unfortunately, our guess is that mother’s will once again play a subsidiary role to the glory of the party and military.

  • Frank Brown

    Please forgive me, but I must point out that the “army first” policy is no longer official policy. It has been replaced by “people’s living first policy,” and as of my most recent visit there (last week), it definitely shows. Have you ever been to the DPRK? An intellectual challenge: try writing an article about the DPRK without adjectives.

    • John 성욱

      Regardless of what you observed, the word Songun (military first) was used in the speeches at the ceremony. While it is true that the DPRK is starting to move away from the Songun policy of Kim Jong-il, they have not formally abolished it and continue to make references to Songun in military ceremonies and other dealings relevant to the military. A sudden abolition of Songun would risk alienating some of the senior officers in the military, so a gradual shift of priorities is the chosen course of action.

    • baleine

      sorry Frank, but no, despite what you say, Songun is still in effect in North Korea. It has NOT been abolished. Plus, that “people’s living first policy” has been mentioned in the NK media for a few years, long before Kim Jong Il died. And it did not keep Songun from continuing….

  • John 성욱

    Somebody, either the author or a source who provided the name of the weapon system, made the same translation error many people make with the Chonma-ho and Pokpung-ho. The “ho” in these words does NOT mean “tiger” but it is the “ho” used to end a word that is a name or designation for a structure, vehicle, or piece of large equipment. When translating these names to English, the “ho” should simply be omitted.

    • Luke Herman
      • John 성욱

        Yes. I found the link to it and made the same comment there. That’s why I said either the author or a source. I don’t want to assume who exactly in the chain of communication started the mistranslation. I just want to correct the common error. I think it’s ultimately the fault of whoever originally did it with the Chonma-ho and set the precedent.

    • 盖罗杰 강로저

      John – Thank you. same comment, but just reading the article now. It keeps creeping back in. Chinese ships use the same suffix “号” / 호。 Since there’s a strong martial tradition relation, the Koreans keep it as 호. But it’s not short for “호랑이”。 The Chinese version of Rodong calls it “女盟号” “Women’s League”. Also interesting they chose to keep the rocket launchers covered.

      The Korean name is clear in the bottom left of this picture.

      I’m sure most folks here already know calling a woman a “lady tiger” in either Chinese or Korean is very derogatory. Think female dog kind of derogatory.

      • John 성욱

        Thanks for providing the further explanation of the characters. I speak Korean but not Chinese, so I don’t know every hanzi character, though I do typically know which syllables in Korean have which meanings. This error does keep coming back and it would be nice to see it corrected.

        It is pretty interesting that the rockets are covered. Typically they are not covered in parades. The entire weapon system is really nothing new here. It is very clearly a 122-mm MRL (though probably no more than a dozen or so tubes) mounted on a VTT-323 chassis (North Korean derivative of the Chinese YW531/Type 63). Therefore, this “new” MRL system is actually a smaller than normal rack of the KPA’s most common MRL mounted the KPA’s most common APC. If anything is new about it, it is nothing major, probably just some slight improvements and upgrades to components. It may simply be a recent production line dedicated to women for the holiday. The Hamhung area is pretty industrial is known to be home to several arms factories, so presenting them here is not surprising.