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However, on this particular day, even these past-times were off limits.Observed on 9 September every year, Independence Day is a public holiday which marks the founding of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and its liberation from the Soviet occupation in 1948.Drinking with friends was overshadowed by the fear of talking about the regime, going to the cinema was blighted by not being able to kiss in public and having to watch one film six times because nothing else was showing.Video games were confined to an interminable cycle of Mario Kart played on 80s consoles.There are no "before Juche 1" years, and years before 1912 are given numbers based on the Christian calendar only.
If we don’t make money, they starve, so life is hard for women.” … Kim gets up at each morning to feed the animals she sells, and also brews alcohol illegally.Kim’s husband, pay between 20 to 30 times their tiny monthly salary not to work. That’s double what her husband would earn in an entire month, were he to get paid. A kilo of rice is something between 5,000 to 7,000 won.” He was paid only six times last year, he says, but as he points out, his salary is largely meaningless. This has happened to between five and seven men I know.”The North Korean authorities are currently employing various means to encourage frugality, an idea which has recently come to include ‘kwanhonsangje’ (the four ceremonial occasions; coming of age, marriage, funeral and ancestral rites).They make the payments in order to be classified in what are known as “August the third units,” who can trade privately. “I get paid 1,200 won a month,” complains another interviewee, Mr. Kim and who has an office job in a state-run company. North Korea’s government has become dependent on free labor from its citizens. Men have become mute.” That muteness has become a matter of survival. Kim describes what happens to friends whose wives have left them or died: “Men without wives become beggars. In recent years there has been official criticism of the fact that engagement ceremonies, wedding gift exchanges between families and even the table for ancestral rites have become occasions full of over-spending, empty formalities and vanity.For one day, everything in the hermit kingdom is closed and a surreal fist-pumping military parade takes place across the capital city of Pyongyang.“People would gather in the squares from morning until six o’clock and sometimes we would walk with the army. Born in 1986, Kang grew up in the eerie, grey, concrete streets of Pyongyang.
Getting drunk with friends till dawn, going on dates to the cinema, playing too many video games.