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…”
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.