The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is fiercely patriotic and as a nation, has much to celebrate. After a checkered and difficult century, its public holidays are geared towards celebrating its freedom from occupation, the end of conflicts and the birthdays of its illustrious leaders. Most festivities feature spectacular public displays and have very recently become open to tourists.
February 16 annually
Throughout the country on this day, Koreans celebrate the anniversary of Kim Jong Il’s birth. In Pyongyang, expect grand displays of synchronized swimming, soccer and ice-skating as athletes compete for the Paekdusan Prize Cup. The city squares are filled with dancers and musicians and in the evening, there’s a grand firework display.
April 15 annually
The most important festival in the North Korean calendar celebrates the birthday of the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung. People gather together in public spaces to show respect, there are competitions including the Pyongyang Marathon, huge ensemble performances of dance and music, a flower show and a grand firework display at night time.
May 1 annually
For one day, North Korea shares a public holiday with 80 other countries around the world. Banks and businesses are closed throughout the DPRK and families spend the day at leisure, relaxing and picnicking in parks and playing traditional games. In the evening in Pyongyang, there are dance performances and firework displays.
July 27 annually
On this day in 1953, the peace armistice was signed and every year, North Koreans commemorate their victory in the Fatherland Liberation War with this national holiday. Military personnel and veterans of the Korean War are honored in public ceremonies presided over by dignitaries and every five years there is a grand military parade.
August 15 annually
Every year, North and South Koreans have a public holiday to celebrate the end of forty years of Japanese occupation. In the DPRK there are spectacular dance and music performances in the city squares. The day also marks the beginning of the Mass Games with an enormous opening ceremony in the May Day Stadium in Pyongyang.
September 9 annually
On this public holiday, businesses throughout the DPRK are closed and families enjoy time relaxing together. There are rallies, ceremonies and performances on a huge scale in public areas as well as sporting competitions and displays, to celebrate the withdrawal of occupying foreign forces and the founding of the nation in 1948.
October 10 annually
This public holiday marks the day the National Workers Party was founded, which has ruled North Korea ever since. People travel to the Party Founding Museum to hear the original recording of Kim Il Sung’s inaugural speech. There are performances of traditional dances in public squares and the closing ceremony of the month-long Mass Games.