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Expectations are running high that North Korea will do something provocative in the next few days — even if it’s just a military parade where they show off mock-ups of missiles — to mark the biggest day of the year on the North Korean calendar. April 15 is officially known in North Korea as “The Day of the Sun” and marks the birthday of the founder of North Korea, Kim Il Sung, in 1912. (Incidentally, he was born on the same day that the Titanic sank.) It’s called that because Il Sung means “to realize the sun” in Korean — although this is not the founder’s real name but a nom de guerre. Here’s a brief rundown on why Kim Il Sung — who’s officially “Eternal President,” even 23 years after his death — remains so important in North Korea. Some background Kim Il Sung was an anti-Japanese guerrilla during the first half of the 20thcentury, when Korea was one country and occupied by the Japanese. At the end of World War II, the peninsula was divided along the 38th parallel, with the Soviet Union overseeing the northern half and the United States taking the southern half. Stalin installed Kim Il Sung as the leader of North Korea — but he was not the Soviet Union’s first choice, as former Washington Post journalist Blaine Harden recounts in his excellent book, “The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot.” The Soviets’ first choice was a political leader known as “Korea’s Gandhi” but he was not a Communist and did not want the job. So they turned to Kim, who had a reputation in Korea as a heroic fighter in Manchuria against the Japanese. But when the Soviets presented Kim as North Korea’s new leader to a huge crowd in Pyongyang, he did not impress, Harden writes in his book. Kim looked even younger than his 33 years, nervously read a speech written for him by his overlords, and had, in the words of one witness, a haircut “like a Chinese waiter.” But Kim prevailed, largely thanks to a propaganda campaign waged by his Soviet patrons. This became the basis for the personality cult that pervades all aspects of North Korea to this day. Kim Il Sung’s tenure It’s hard to imagine it now, but in the first three decades of Kim Il Sung’s rule, North Korea was doing relatively well. The northern half of the country, long considered the “breadbasket” while the south was the industrial part, had enough food and had the support of its benefactors in the Soviet Union and China. It wasn’t until the mid-1970s that South Korea’s economy overtook the North’s. Kim Il Sung traveled and struck up friendships with like-minded countries around the world — and there were many more of them back then. He was widely admired by North Koreans — and even today, defectors to the South often still have some affection for him. All Kim, all the time This, of course, was helped along by the all-encompassing personality cult that means Kim Il Sung’s portrait is hung in every building in North Korea — homes, factories, government buildings — as well as on street corners and railway stations and mountainsides. He’s the subject of many of the movies, music and books produced in North Korea. The best university in North Korea is Kim Il Sung University; North Korea’s “self-reliance” doctrine is called “Kimilsungism”; those who excel at Kimilsungism might win the Kim Il Sung Prize. The central plaza in Pyongyang — and most other towns and cities — is Kim Il Sung Square. North Koreans wear a badge of Kim Il Sung (and sometimes Kim Jong Il too) over their heart. And of course, there are flower displays of the special orchid called Kimilsungia. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/04/14/why-is-april-15-such-a-big-deal-in-north-korea/?utm_term=.7e2967a978a2