There’s one place where Christmas cheer will be in even shorter supply this year — North Korea.
Not content with banning Christmas in 2016, the country’s supreme grinch, Kim Jong Un, has taken it one step further by prohibiting gatherings that involve alcohol and singing, according to South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS).
The NIS said Kim brought in the measures to try and stop dissent as sanctions imposed by the United Nations over his country’s nuclear program begin to take hold.
“(North Korea) has devised a system whereby party organs report people’s economic hardships on a daily basis, and it has banned any gatherings related to drinking, singing and other entertainment and is strengthening control of outside information,” the NIS said, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.
Opportunities to spread goodwill and cheer appear to be dwindling in the repressive nation, which bans religious worship except for the founding first family.
Last year, Kim banned the few practicing Christians in the country from celebrating Christmas and instead told them to celebrate his grandmother, Kim Jong-suk, who was born on Christmas Eve in 1919, according to media reports. A Communist stalwart, the first wife of the country’s founding leader Kim Il Sung is known to North Koreans as “the Sacred Mother of the Revolution.”
Christmas trees decorated with baubles and lights can be seen in upmarket shops and restaurants in Pyongyang, but there are no religious symbols.
In July, two tour companies said the North’s annual Taedonggang Beer Festival was suddenly cancelled, with drought the likely reason.
Last month, North Korea cracked down on Mother’s Day messages — Kim introduced the day in 2012 to celebrate mothers who help to uphold his regime and to commemorate “The Duty of Mothers in the Education of Children,” a Nov. 16, 1961 speech by his grandfather Kim Il Sung.
“On the significant Mother’s Day every year, all the sons and daughters of the country extend warm congratulations to the mothers bringing up their children with their love, feelings and devotion and upholding the socialist country,” the official Korean Central News Agency said in an article.
The identity of Kim’s own mother is confidential in North Korea.