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birthday, demands, non-tax burdens
Rodong Sinmun published a photo of people enjoying lights installed in various parts of Pyongyang to mark the 82nd anniversary of Kim Jong Il’s birthday on Feb. 16. (Rodong Sinmun-News1)

North Korean authorities issued orders for special guard duty throughout the country on Feb. 16, the 82nd anniversary of Kim Jong Il’s birth, also known as the Day of the Shining Star. In particular, the government frustrated many people by ordering those already mobilized for guard duty to buy their own firewood.

“In Sinuiju, the order for special guard duty on the Day of the Shining Star lasted from 5 PM on Feb. 15 to 5 PM on Feb. 17,” a source in North Pyongan Province told Daily NK on Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

North Korea orders special guard duty on all national holidays – including the Day of the Shining Star, the Day of the Sun (Apr. 15, the birthday of Kim Il Sung), and Party Foundation Day (Oct. 10) – to emphasize public vigilance. The orders were issued again this year, urging citizens to pay close attention to ensure that not a single incident or accident occurs during the holiday.

According to the source, a neighborhood watch unit in Sinuiju assigned four-person teams to rotate 24-hour guard duty at the unit’s security office, the local government office, and other facilities. But the people assigned to guard duty were also expected to buy their own firewood, a non-tax burden that led to much anger among them.

“North Koreans are now having to tighten their belts because of financial difficulties so severe that they can’t even afford to eat rice, let alone prepare the typical holiday dishes. When families are shivering in the cold because they don’t have fuel to heat their homes this winter, it’s extremely upsetting to be ordered to provide firewood for guard duty,” the source said.

The source reported that some citizens openly said it would be better not to have the holidays at all.

“People are already being harassed with demands for money and supplies for various occasions, and not just the money for donating flower baskets. So now people are saying that they’re not happy but afraid when the holidays come around,” the source said.

Little holiday spirit

Hyesan, in Yanggang Province, was another city where people were angered by the government’s demands that they pay for the firewood needed for special guard duty on the Day of the Shining Star.

“A neighborhood watch unit in Hyesan ordered families assigned to guard duty to provide stacks of firewood costing KPW 3,000, which is enough to buy one kilogram of corn. This was very upsetting because it’s a serious burden for people who can’t afford to eat regularly, even during the holiday,” said a source in Yanggang province.

Hoping to alleviate some of this burden, some neighborhood watch unit leaders went around to wealthier families and asked them to help buy the firewood needed for guard duty.

“The government held several events to create a festive atmosphere for the Day of the Shining Star, but citizens are too burdened by their financial problems to enjoy the holiday,” the source said.

“People are expressing their hope that business will be good enough for them to make a living, even if they can’t afford to celebrate.”

Translated by David Carruth. Edited by Robert Lauler.

Daily NK works with a network of sources living in North Korea, China, and elsewhere. Their identities remain anonymous for security reasons. For more information about Daily NK’s network of reporting partners and information-gathering activities, please visit our FAQ page here.

Please send any comments or questions about this article to [email protected].

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