April 15th is the date of the most significant public holiday in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; The Day of the Sun. This holiday marks the birthday of the first Supreme Leader and incumbent Eternal President Kim Il Sung (1912 – 1994). The date was initially made a public holiday in 1962 and later made official in 1968 as the President reached the height of his power. In the aftermath of his death in 1994 the date was formalised as the most important public holiday and renamed ‘Day of the Sun’ (not to be confused with Day of the Shining Star which commemorates the birth of General Kim Jong Il, the son and successor of President Kim Il Sung).
Kumsusan Memorial Palace
The site of the President’s birth is a popular tourist attraction both for foreigners and DPRK nationals and many travel to the site on this auspicious holiday to pay respects to the Great Leader. The site is called Mangyongdae and, in usual DPRK style, has given its name to numerous other events and locations including the Mangyongdae Prize Marathon held annually in Pyongyang and the Mangyongdae Children’s Palace. The area was once a small village near the capital city but has since become a suburb of Pyongyang as the city continued to grow. Locals may also visit their local statues or monuments to the Great Leader which are prevalent in towns and cities across the country; the most famous of these monuments is the ‘Mansudae Grand Monument’ situated in central Pyongyang.
Kim Il Sung’s birthplace in Mangyongdae
Other festivities are held throughout the DPRK on this holiday, all businesses are closed for the 3 day holiday and wreath laying ceremonies occur in front of statues to the Great Leader all over the nation. The ‘Kimilsungia flower festival’ is held around this time along with other events such as the Pyongyang Marathon. Kim Jong Un, much like many locals, visits the Kumsusan Memorial Palace on April 15th to pay respects to the President and General. The Arirang Mass Games and large military parades used to be held on this date however the games were temporarily halted in 2013 and parades have been a rare occurrence since tensions with the US and South Korea began to thaw. Since 2009 an evening fireworks display has been held in Pyongyang.