North Korea celebrates Lunar New Year, but state obligations come first

North Koreans observe the cultural holiday, though it is less prominent than birthday celebrations for past leaders.
By Elizabeth Shim  |  Jan. 27, 2017 at 10:11 PM
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Jan. 27 (UPI) -- Tensions continue to prevail on the Korean peninsula but this weekend North and South Korea are expected to celebrate one of the few national holidays they have in common: the Lunar New Year.

According to Seoul's unification ministry on Saturday, local time, North Korean defectors have offered details on how people in the relatively reclusive country celebrate the annual holiday that marks the traditonal new year for countries like Korea, China and Vietnam.

Folk games, kite flying and other activities once popular decades ago in the South are still common in North Korea. Pocket money is given to children, a tradition that is also in practice in the South.

North Korea began celebrating the Lunar New Year according to the lunar calendar in 2003. Before then the holiday was observed on Jan. 1 and North Koreans were only allowed one day of rest, South Korean news service News 1 reported.

North Koreans are also obligated to visit bronze statues of founder Kim Il Sung, and his son Kim Jong Il, during the holidays and provide an offering of flowers.

Only after they pay visits to memorials dedicated to national figures are North Koreans allowed to visit their ancestral graves, according to the report.

Most North Koreans share meals with their families, and unlike other parts of Asia there is no mass migration of city dwellers to rural hometowns because of restrictions on freedom of movement in the country.

Lunar New Year is also a less prominent holiday compared to upcoming celebrations that include former leader Kim Jong Il's 75th birth anniversary in February.

North Korea has continued to broadcast a series of cryptic numbers in January, Yonhap news agency reported.

Numbers aired by North Korea radio station Pyongyang Broadcasting, intended for the "No. 27 exploration team," resumed on Friday.

The numbers that were broadcast on Friday were identical to those aired on Jan. 13, according to Yonhap.

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