Libmonster ID: KG-685
Author(s) of the publication: A. V. POGADAEVA


Russian State University for the Humanities, Institute of Asian and African Studies, Lomonosov Moscow State University

Keywords: North Korea, "Day of the Sun", Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, kimirsenhwa, kimjongirhwa

On April 15, 2013, at the height of the latest crisis on the Korean peninsula, Pyongyang celebrated the "Day of the Sun" - the 101st anniversary of the birth of the "founding father" of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Kim Il Sung. As it turned out, this holiday was the beginning of the de-escalation of the conflict on the peninsula*.

The impressions of an eyewitness of such a holiday - a teacher of Korean language and literature A.V. Pogadaeva-are interesting.

We, members of the MSU delegation, immediately felt the strangeness, even uniqueness, of the upcoming trip in Beijing, where we transferred to the plane of the North Korean airline Goryeo.

The plane was packed: Koreans, Chinese, Japanese, and even Europeans were among the passengers. We were given magazines in various languages, including Russian, which told about the happy life of North Koreans, and a feature film about the everyday life of the working people was shown on the TV screen.

Upon arrival in Pyongyang, the delegation was met by Comrade Lee, who was assigned to accompany us. She escorted our delegation to the bus, and we went to the hotel "Kore", located in the heart of the capital. I stared out the window, trying not to miss a single detail.

Residential buildings, people rushing to work, trams, a few cars. It was immediately obvious that the city was preparing for a big holiday. Banners with slogans were hung, pavements were washed, flowers were planted in flower beds. At the hotel, we were given a very rich program of our visit, and we were also asked to hand over our mobile phones, which were returned to us when we left the country.

Contrary to what I had heard, during our journey we were allowed to leave the hotel alone and walk around the streets without hindrance, even taking photos from the bus window. The only time I wasn't allowed to take a picture was when we went up to the restaurant, which was located on the top floor of our hotel on a revolving platform, with a beautiful view of Pyongyang.


Our visit to the DPRK was timed to coincide with the celebration of the "Day of the Sun" - the birthday of Kim Il Sung. Parades, concerts and mass celebrations are held annually on this occasion on April 15 in the country. Everywhere on the streets, citizens dressed in smart national clothes strolled, columns of North Korean pioneers in bright red ties passed by. In the evening, Pyongyang was lit up with bright lights (on normal days, the city is lit up little in order to save electricity).

On the" Day of the Sun", our program included a visit to the Geumsusan Palace, the mausoleum of Kim Il Sung, which left contradictory impressions.

This is indeed a palace, which is a huge marble building, compared to which the Lenin mausoleum in Moscow seemed to me a very modest structure. We had to stand in a long queue, because it is on this day that the mausoleum is visited not only by Koreans themselves, but also by international delegations, employees of embassies and other foreign organizations who came to the celebrations. I had to hand over all my things to the storage room, and I was even forced to part with the lipstick that was in my jacket pocket.

After passing a series of metal detectors and even a special device that blows dust from clothes, we found ourselves inside a huge hall decorated with mosaics on the walls. There we were given small audio guides that are in Russian

* For more information, see: Regional Security. Lessons from the latest Korean crisis. Rusakov N. Vertigo from nuclear successes; Kireev O. V. Where does the young leader lead the DPRK? // Asia and Africa today. 2013, N 7, 8 (editor's note).

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They spoke about the bitterness of the loss of the entire people of the DPRK, which they experienced and are experiencing in connection with the death of Kim Il Sung (in Korean-Kim Il Sung). After that, we went to the hall with the sarcophagus, which contains the body of the great leader, who received the title of "eternal president" after his death. As they walked around the sarcophagus, everyone stopped on all four sides and bowed. Many Koreans were crying.

Then we found ourselves in a nearby hall where Kim Il Sung's belongings and awards are kept.


The program of our visit included visiting many museums - the Revolution, the Great Patriotic War, Mangyongde, etc.

In each of them, we were met by guides who spoke excellent Russian and were ready to answer any questions. One of the girl guides apologized for a long time that she spoke Russian haltingly due to the fact that all the previous days she had led excursions in Japanese.

I was particularly impressed by the Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il gift museums. They are located in the Mehyangsan Mountains, about an hour and a half drive from Pyongyang, and stand directly opposite each other. When we arrived at the Kim Il Sung Gift Museum, it didn't seem too big. But it turned out that the building goes directly inside the mountain, in which a 200-meter tunnel was specially cut for internal halls. At the entrance there is a board where gifts are counted. To date, their number is close to 250 thousand. Their variety is also striking-from decorative commemorative plates and vases to armored trains and cars. The guide explained that if you stop at each gift for a few seconds, then it will take a whole year to see the entire museum. This was not part of our plans at all, so we were selectively shown some of the exhibits, not ignoring the gifts of Soviet leaders and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Unfortunately, it is not allowed to take photos inside the building. On the top floor, there was a spacious terrace where you could drink tea and enjoy the majestic mountain view.


On one of the days of our trip, we happened to go down to the Pyongyang subway, which was opened in 1973, a year earlier than in Seoul. Apparently, North Koreans are proud of the fact that they managed to "wipe the nose" of their southern compatriots.

The metro consists of only two lines - Chollima and Hyeksin. We passed through old Chinese-made metal turnstiles. Koreans entered the subway by dropping a token into the turnstile, the cost of which in terms of Russian money is about 1 ruble. As they descended the long escalator (the Pyongyang subway is one of the deepest in the world), some of them looked at us curiously and even smiled, while others turned away indifferently.

While we were driving down, it was gloomy and stuffy because of the musty air, but the Puhyn station, where we finally found ourselves, was striking in its beauty. I especially remember the huge mosaics and panels with paintings of revolutionary themes, unusual multi-colored crystal lamps. Right in the middle of the station were stands with the latest issues of the capital's newspapers.

An old red-and-green train pulled up and we got in. We sat down on a bench next to the passengers and began to take pictures together. Before we reached the next station in Yongwan, all the Koreans had already moved to the other end of the car.

Of course, we were shown only two stations, which are shown to all foreign tourists, so you can't judge the entire metro by them. But some general impression still remained.


According to the DPRK Constitution, " citizens have the right to freedom of conscience." This is the official position of the state, but in reality everything is not so simple.

On the one hand, North Korea has functioning Buddhist temples, several Protestant and Catholic churches, and even the Russian Orthodox church of the Holy Life-Giving Trinity, built in 2006 by order of Kim Jong Il himself. On the other hand, the Juche ideology ("self-reliance") and the personality cult of "great leaders"are at the forefront of everything.

page 64

On the day of visiting the North Korean leaders ' gift museums, we were dropped off at the ancient Pohensa Buddhist Temple in the Mehyangsan Mountains. There are still Buddhist monks living there, but we only saw one. He met us in the main room of the temple and began to tell us about the great leader Kim Il Sung, who was as merciful and sympathetic as a Buddha.

We also visited an Orthodox church. Palm Sunday fell just in time for our visit to the DPRK, and we asked to be taken to the service. There weren't many people there, just 15 people, mostly embassy staff and Russians who were in Pyongyang for the "Day of the Sun"celebration.

The priest turned out to be a North Korean citizen who studied at a seminary in St. Petersburg. The choir consisted mainly of Koreans-students of the local conservatory. The service was held in Russian, everything looked solemn and decorous. But at the end of the liturgy, the priest delivered a sermon in which he spoke about the great leader Kim Il Sung, his kindness, love for people and humanity, all these qualities were supported by examples from his life. His fiery speech, which ended with a comparison between the leader and Christ, completely baffled me.


Kimirsenhwa and kimjongirhwa are not North Korea's political slogans or ideologies. This is another example of a very peculiar fusion of ideology with aesthetics and a sense of beauty.

Kimirsenkhva and kimjongirkhva (in Russia they are often called kimirseniya and kimjongiriya) are flowers specially bred by breeders in honor of North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. Our delegation visited the Kimirsenhwa flower show, dedicated to the celebration of the "Day of the Sun".

Acquaintance with such flowers began immediately upon arrival in Pyongyang. Before we got off the plane, numerous Kimirsenhwa and Kimjongirhwa literally rained down on us from all sides. They could be seen on posters that decorated Pyongyang for the holiday, on bas-reliefs and facades of many buildings, on flower beds along the sidewalks of streets. During our visit to the city Palace of Pioneers, we were shown a class where children are engaged in traditional embroidery among numerous circles. Many of them worked to embroider the kimirsenhwa flower. The lobby of the Kore Hotel, where we were placed, was also decorated with compositions of these flowers.

When I asked what these flowers are called, Comrade Li, who accompanied our delegation, proudly answered: "These are kimirsenia and kimjongiriya flowers." And added: "Comrade Kim Jong Il said: "Kimirsenhwa is the flower of the Sun, a symbol of the greatness of our leader, who with the rays of Juche illuminated the way forward for the peoples of the world. This flower, named kimirsenhwa after a great man, blooms in the hearts of the people of the age of independence."

The program of our visit included visiting the annual Kimirsenhwa Flower show. A large two-story greenhouse with a total area of 5 thousand square meters, opened in 2002 on the banks of the Taedong River, was surrounded by flowers. We saw huge flower arrangements with North Korean slogans, sights of the DPRK, rotating platforms with colorful lights and congratulations on the "Day of the Sun", which coincides with the anniversary of the Juche idea.

More than 70 state and municipal organizations

page 65

foreign organizations and departments took part in this event. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the DPRK presented the song "Great Leader Comrade Kim Il Sung is always with us". The People's Army has prepared an installation with a huge rising sun. In the center of one of the flower arrangements were a map of Korea and a slogan with wishes for the unification of the country. We drew attention to the kimirsenhwa exhibited from various embassies, including the Russian one. Many of the flowers are grown especially for the exhibition by individual families from North Korea. 700 fellow Japanese citizens annually grow flowers and take part in the exhibition.

No less interesting is the history of kimirsenhwa. This flower is a type of orchid with rose petals. In shape, it resembles a butterfly with outstretched wings. The length of the stem is from 30 to 70 cm, the thickness is 1 - 1.5 cm. The flower was bred in 1960 in Indonesia in the world-famous Bogor Botanical Garden after ten years of hard work by breeders.

In April 1965, during Kim Il Sung's visit to Indonesia, the flower was presented to him by President Sukarno. The book "Korea in the 20th Century: 100 most Significant Events", published in Pyongyang, describes this historical event: "He (Kim Il Sung) stopped in front of an unusual flower: the stem was straight, and the leaves harmoniously bordered it; all this gave the flower a fresh look, the rose petals were elegant and priceless. He said it was a very beautiful flower. Sukarno replied that the flower didn't have a name yet, and he would name it after Kim Il Sung. Kim Il Sung declined the offer, but Sukarno said it was a great honor to name a flower after such a great man, and Kim Il Sung agreed." In addition, the meeting was held on the eve of Kim Il Sung's birthday. So an orchid from the genus Dendrobium from Makassar became a memorable gift to the North Korean leader.

On April 20, 1982, at the suggestion of President Sukarno's son Guntur Sukarnoputra, the scientific name of the Kimirsenhwa flower, Dendrobium KIMILSUNG FLOWER, was officially registered with the Horticultural Scientific Society at the Royal Palace of Great Britain. The Indonesians themselves call it "kimilsungia" (kimilsungia) from a combination of two words - the name of Kim Il Sung, which in Indonesian sounds like "kimilsun", and the name of the country "Indonesia". Former Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, daughter of Sukarno, and his wife Ratna Sari Devi Sukarno visited Pyongyang for the exhibition.

Of course, on Kim Il Sung's birthday, kimirsonghwa flowers were in the first place, but Kimjongirhwa flowers did not go unnoticed, they complemented these flower arrangements at the exhibition.

Kimjongirhwa is a variety of begonias with large red flowers. Its petals resemble a burning torch, and the leaves are heart-shaped. Japanese gardener Kamo Mododeru developed a new type of tuberous begonia and named it Kim Jong Il on the occasion of the 46th anniversary of his birth in February 1988. This flower was officially registered on August 4, 2004 under the number 991 as Begonia X tuberhybrida Voss "KIMJONGILHWA" in the begonia Society of the USA by an authorized representative of the international horticultural society. North Koreans say that "this captivating flower reflects all the feelings and aspirations of the Korean nation."

At the 12th International Exhibition of Ornamental plants in May 1991, held in Czechoslovakia, Kimjongirva received a special prize and a gold medal, and at the World Exhibition held in 1999 in Kunming, China, the flower was awarded the highest prize-the Grand Prix. The gold award was also awarded to Kimjongirhwa at the San Diego exhibition in the United States.

In March 2010, Vladivostok Mayor Igor Pushkarev met with an official delegation of the DPRK headed by Deputy Foreign Minister of the DPRK Gun Seok-un. During the visit, the city on its 150th anniversary received a gift of seedlings of unique flowers for planting in flower beds in Vladivostok.

So I couldn't resist buying myself a Kimjongirhwa begonia bulb. And on my Moscow window bloomed an extremely beautiful red flower in memory of an amazing trip to the DPRK.

Pyongyang - Moscow


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