arirang news

How Lunar New Year's looks like in North Korea Updated: 2018-02-17 12:17:26 KST

Lunar new year, or 'seollal' , was not celebrated for much of North Korea's history, until it became a public holiday in 1989.
Before then, North Koreans were given a day off for New Year's Day on January 1st.
Now they are also given a three-day long Lunar New Year holiday.

Unlike Seoul, there's no mass exodus during the holiday season.
Due to tight regulations and lack of transportation, it's extremely difficult for average citizens to visit family members living in other parts of the country. Only the North Korean elite who can afford cars are able to travel to other regions.

With family, co-workers, or friends, many people in Pyongyang start the holidays off by gathering at the city's Mansudae Hill to worship the statues of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il.

And for the rest of Seollal-- although North Korean state media has previously reported that North Koreans enjoy the holidays with various traditional games and abundant food, often, the reality is different.
Food shortages are common in North Korea, and regular North Koreans spend the holiday at home without the food that is traditionally prepared for Lunar New Year, such as dumpling soup, or the half-moon-shaped rice cake called 'songpyeon' . For average North Koreans, meat, such as pork, is a welcome treat on the Lunar New Year table, as is alcohol for men.

And as for Seollal gifts, high-ranking officials usually exchange expensive gifts such as Swiss watches and electronic devices.
But for regular citizens, calendars are the most popular gift.
Paper production levels are very low in the North, but calendars are considered an everyday necessity-- so they make a good gift.

Park Hee-jun, Arirang News.
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