What is Military Foundation Day (North Korea)?

Introduction

Military Foundation Day (Korean: 조선인민군 창건일) is an annual public holiday in North Korea falling on 25 April.

Background

North Korean historiography has two competing dates for the founding of the modern Korean People’s Army (KPA): 25 April 1932 and 08 February 1948. According to North Korean historiography, the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army (KPRA) – the predecessor of the KPA – was founded on 25 April 1932. The KPRA was the name for Korean units of the Northeast Anti-Japanese United Army (refer to World War II) and the regular KPA was not established until 1948, with its date of 08 February becoming a holiday for the formal military’s founding until celebrations ceased in 1978, to be replaced by 25 April. The 25 April date had, however, been celebrated in one way or the other since 1962. Initially it was celebrated as the founding of “anti-Japanese guerrilla units” in general, and later as the founding of the KPRA, in particular. It became an official holiday in 1996. The 25 April occasion was commemorated as the sole day for the army’s foundation from 1978 until 2015, whereupon Kim Jong Un restored 08 February as the Army Day celebration alongside Military Foundation Day.

Brief History

On 21 April 1992, four days before the 25 April Military Foundation Day, Kim Jong-il was given the title of wonsu (marshal) in the army. There was a huge parade on the Military Foundation Day that year. At the parade, announced to the public: “Bring glory to the heroic people’s military”. This was the first and only recording of him speaking publicly. Since 23 April 1996, Military Foundation Day has been an official holiday.

Celebrations

Celebrations of the Military Foundation Day are extensive. The country holds a commemorative assembly in the capital as well as various commemorative events, demonstrations, concerts and a military parade. Servicemen of the armed forces and civilians alike are permitted to take off from work to celebrate the holiday and the service of the KPA in the defence of the nation.

Military Parade of the Korean People’s Army and the Worker-Peasant Red Guards

The semi-annual parade, which was a feature of the day since the first parade of 1948, is a key highlight of the national celebrations in Pyongyang. Since 1958, parades have been held on the city’s Kim Il-sung Square in honour of the holiday every 5 years, following Chinese practice. The first parade was in 1948 at Pyongyang Station which included the attendance of Soviet generals and the participation of about 20,000 North Korean soldiers. In 1992, the diamond jubilee parade was held.

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