How to Celebrate Kim Il-Sung’s Birthday? By Breakdancing!

I’m fascinating by North Korea, hence by subscription to, a daily aggregation of stories coming out of that weird little country.  One of this week’s dispatches dealt with how the country celebrates the birthday of long-dead Kim Il-Sung, the Great Leader.

It’s a bit long-ish, but stick around until the dancing starts.

When you see the pictures and videos coming out of Pyongyang today, you might be surprised by what you see. But I don’t want these pictures to make you think that North Korea is just a land of robots who are all forced to celebrate Kim Il Sung’s birthday each year. You see, celebrating the Great Leader’s birthday has long been a huge event in North Korea, and the only way I can help you understand it is by suggesting that you think about how Christmas is celebrated in the West.In many countries, remembering the story of Jesus Christ is an important part of celebrating Christmas. Well, in North Korea it’s the same – except we instead remember and celebrate the birthday of Kim Il Sung. While Westerners remember the story of Bethlehem and the mysterious birth of Jesus Christ, in North Korea we remember the birth of Kim Il Sung and his heroic feats against the Japanese colonial powers. And just like in the West with Christmas Day, the majority of North Koreans are not expected to work on Kim Il Sung’s birthday – it’s a national holiday, after all!

Kim Il Sung’s birthday is a time of the year I have a lot of fond memories of. Rations would always increase, there would be lots of movies and documentaries shown on TV and in the theaters, and special operas would take place like “Flower Girl” or “Sea of Blood.” It really was – and still is – a special festival.

Although I didn’t really understand what the celebrations were for when I was a young girl, I still have vivid memories about how beautiful Pyongyang was around that time of year. Flowers would be in bloom and there was always great weather. It was always sunny on the big day – in fact, I don’t remember it raining once on April 15 in any of the 15 years I lived there!

Of course, I have stronger memories of the festival in my older years.

Keep going.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38550 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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