“Glorify this year 2012 as a year of proud victory, a year when an era of prosperity is unfolding.” With this New Year’s message the regime of Kim Jong-Un ushered the North Korean people into 2012. The peak of planned festivities will take place on April 15th, the 100th birth anniversary of Kim Il-Sung. The North Korean propagandists are never without superlatives. As the preparations for the celebrations are underway, there is much suffering for the people–and there is no end in sight.
The planned festivities in North Korea have no parallel anywhere in the world. The entire celebration, but especially the “Arirang” mass performances, will be bigger than usual. The mass performances are designed for two purposes: to impress the world and to give honor to (or even worship) the leaders. No doubt, there will be a large emphasis on the glorification on Kim Jong-Un, who assumed power after his father Kim Jong-Il died in December.
The celebrations will not only take place in Pyongyang, but throughout the country, as citizens must participate in events to commemorate the leaders. Those events vary from playing games to local dance performances. In addition, North Korea announced to the people they could expect a “generous gift from the Respected Comrade Kim Jong-Un.” Often this means an extra food ration. North Korea is also planning to finally open its most expensive, pyramid-structured hotel in Pyongyang. It took 24 years to construct.
North Korea wants to celebrate 2012 with a “bang” and, therefore, plans to launch a satellite in April. It is still unclear if the regime will indeed try to shoot the satellite into space, because the international community, especially the United States and South Korea, have threatened to abstain from giving the promised food aid if they do so.
Like the Israelites who worked themselves to death for the glory of the Egyptian pharaohs, the North Korean people are suffering under the increased burden as celebrating the anniversary and the “state’s progress” is mandatory. Streets have to be clean, apartment buildings, homes, fences, etc. need to receive a new layer of paint. Citizens have to bear the expense themselves. Many households have to contribute 20,000 won for the state’s “total mobilization period” and the upcoming artistic performances. To put this amount into perspective, an average worker receives a monthly salary of only 2,000 won. People who are able to trade on the black market, however, have an income of a little less than 2,000 won a day.
Like their fellow citizens, Christians in North Korea are bracing themselves for the April events as they wake up every day in a country that is full of the idolization of its leaders. Even worse is the increased terror level of the government. One church leader described this in his letter, “All executives, citizens and even students are forced to attend meetings. Between December 30th and January 8th there have been thorough investigations to find anyone who has not participated sincerely or has not participated at all in the national mourning of the death of the leader. Therefore all criticism meetings and self-reflection classes are being closely watched and secret agents are seen everywhere. All these movements are to prevent any sort of individual dangerous elements who may not devote themselves to the ‘military first’ policy and protest against its current system. It seems like it is part of an extreme reign of terror just to create a terror atmosphere. It is very difficult to speak our minds, even to our friends and family. There is a good chance we will be arrested if we speak freely.”
The North Korean Church deeply appreciates the prayer of their foreign brothers and sisters during these very difficult weeks. “Thank you so much for generously supporting us with love and prayers. We will always listen carefully to what the Holy Spirit is telling us and will follow His guidance in our ministry and our lives,” adds the church leader. “We will try harder to live according to His words and will.”
Father, we lift up to You our brothers and sisters in North Korea who bear the daily burden of oppression and fear. We call on You to make the voice of Your Spirit clear to guide them as they serve You in this land and as they draw near to You. Sustain them and protect them from pressure to worship Kim Jong-Un and his grandfather, Kim Il-Sung, during these festivities. Strengthen us, as well, to be faithful in praying for them. In the name of Jesus, who rules above all earthly kings, Amen.