This Friday North Koreans will celebrate Military Foundation Day. Military Foundation Day (인민군 창건일) is an annual public holiday held every April 25 in North Korea and is similar to Armed Forces Day in South Korea, the United States and other countries. It officially commemorates the foundation of the Korean People’s Army and the efforts it has made in the defense of the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea.
The holiday is primarily used as propaganda for the North Korean regime, showcasing the historical and current importance of the military to the North Korean people – while demonstrating the leadership’s commitment to the military itself. Because it is so important for Kim Jong Un and his associates to keep the military content and supportive of the top leaders, Military Foundation day helps reassure the military of its own prominent place in the regime.
OBSERVING THE HOLIDAY
Officially, most people get the day off on April 25, however, many people are required to participate in or expected to attend various formal events. The military typically stages large parades in Pyongyang to show off weapons and the troops and sometimes conducts drills to demonstrate its firepower.
“This day is a public holiday on which all national agencies including public offices get the day off,” said Ji-min Kang, a defector who left Pyongyang in 2005. “But on this day, most residents can’t rest, because there are events to commemorate the founding of the KPA.”
“We watch various celebrations and events including mass meetings that are held. In Pyongyang, a military parade called a military review takes place. Here hundreds of thousands of residents are rallied and on this day they dress up in nice clothes and are rallied to the events. But this day is actually more boring and tiresome than a normal day.”
BACKGROUND AND SYMBOLISM
Military Foundation Day was originally observed on February 8, because the KPA was officially founded on that date in 1948 with backing from the Soviet Union. It incorporated many remnants of Kim Il Sung’s anti-Japanese guerrilla force and the Korean Volunteer Army, which had been led be Kim Tu Bong and Mu Chong. Both forces fought – alongside Chinese communist forces – against the Japanese during the occupation and World War II. The Korean Liberation Army, which was associated with the Korean government-in-exile in Shanghai and cooperated with the United States Office of Strategic Services (predecessor to the CIA), is not considered part of the lineage of the KPA.
In 1971, Kim Il Sung changed the official founding date of the KPA – and with it Military Foundation Day – to April 25, 1932, the date he first formed his anti-Japanese guerrilla force at Mt. Paektu, according to the official history. It is believed this was done to give himself more credit for creating the current military and reduce the credit given to Soviet support, making it appear as more of an indigenous Korean institution.
As with other important dates, North Korea uses April 25 symbolically as the name of various institutions and places, in this case ones that are military-related. Probably the best-known is the April 25 House of Culture, in Sosong-guyok, Pyongyang. It contains multiple theaters and is used for military-related ceremonies and performances and for seminars by the KPA and the National Defense Commission. The April 25 Sports Club – previously the February 8 Sports Club – is the official football team of the KPA and one of the most successful in North Korea. Its players receive some of the best training and the team has won over a dozen championships. Among the units of the KPA is the 425th Training Center, a mechanized infantry corps located north of Pyongyang. The number 425 or 4.25 is also displayed on objects including, of course, the flags of the KPA Ground, Naval, and Air Forces.
With its ties to Kim Il Sung’s leadership, its importance in maintaining the military’s loyalty and usefulness as a symbol of the nation, April 25 is clearly very important for the North Korean regime. As long as the regime remains an isolated and totalitarian state reliant on the military to preserve the status quo, they will likely always celebrate April 25 and otherwise evoke the symbolism of the date.
Picture: Fruhtau, Flickr Creative Commons
Join the influential community of members who rely on NK News original news and in-depth reporting.
Subscribe to read the remaining 707 words of this article.