Another dictatorship milestone for North Korea and its ruler Kim Jong Un.
The dictator, who has developed a personality cult rivaling that of communist icons Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin, announced on Sunday that he now wants to replace Christmas in North Korea with a special day of observance for his grandmother, Kim Jong Suk. North Korean Christians, a persecuted and shrinking minority in the atheistic state, are being told to remember the birth of Jong Suk and not Jesus Christ.
Jong Suk was born on Christmas Eve in 1919. She was a faithful communist who was also fought the Japanese as a guerilla warrior during the Second World War.
Kim’s grandmother already enjoys a semi-official status in the ideologically-locked country. Devout North Korean communists honor her as the “Sacred Mother of the Revolution,” by making pilgrimages to her tomb. Jong Suk, as many political figures do in communist regimes, died mysteriously in 1949 at age 29.
The mercurial Kim has actually come close to war because of Christmas. In 2014, he was outraged to discover that neighbor and bitter rival South Korea was planning to mount a massive Christmas tree along the border — known to U.S. military personnel as the DMZ, or De-Militarized Zone.
South Korea decided the provocation wasn’t worth the potential war and the plan was scrapped.
Though Kim has frequently ranted about Christmas and objected to the South Korean Christmas tree, the festive evergreens can be spotted in some “upscale” department stores available for communist party officials – though they are bereft of any decorations.
North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, was once a thriving Christian city with the highest population of Christians than anywhere else in pre-war Korea. However, since the consolidation of communist control, Christianity is increasingly difficult to practice.
According to the estimates of human rights groups, between 50,000 and 70,000 Christians are now incarcerated in prisons that resemble Soviet gulags.