What is the Day of the Sun

North Korea celebrates the birthday of Eternal President Kim Il Sung every year on April 15th. It has become known as the day of the Sun.

The Sun refers to Kim himself, as the eternal “Sun of Korea”. Il-Sung directly translates to “become the sun”. His mausoleum is even called Kumsusan Palace of the Sun.

It’s the most important day in the North Korean calendar and is considered the equivalent to Christmas. Kim was and still is revered as a god like character in the DPRK. The official calendar starts in the year 1912 – the birth year of Kim Il Sung.

It was designated an official holiday in 1967 but only declared “the Day of the Sun” in 1997 – 3 years after his passing.

The Kim Il Sungia flower exhibition. Pyongyang on the day of the sun
Kim Ilsungia flower exhibition
North Koreans dance next to the arch of triumph on April 15th, birthday of Kim Il Sung.
Mass Dance on the Day of The Sun

How is it celebrated?

The Day of the Sun is marked by visiting revolutionary sites that have a connection with Kim Il Sung’s life. The most popular of these places is;

  • Mangyondae Native Home (birthplace of Kim Il Sung)
  • Kumsusan Palace of the Sun (former office and resting place)
  • Mansudae Grand Monument (large bronze statues of the leaders)

It’s common for thousands of locals to attend ceremonies at these sites and pay respects to Kim Il Sung. There are fireworks in the evening, Kim-Il Sungia flower exhibitions and concerts throughout the day as well as mass dancing in the streets. Locals are expected to take part in all the festivities.

People receive more food and electricity than what is normally available from the state and children receive candy. The holiday lasts three days.

Dancing in Moran hill, Pyongyang on the day of the sun
Dancing in the park
Firework display in Pyongyang, North Korea
Fireworks in Kim Il Sung Square

Why is it so important?

Kim Il Sung waged an anti-Japanese guerrilla war from Manchuria during the Japanese occupation of Korea. After the division of Korea in 1945 he quickly worked his way up to the top of the Communist party of North Korea (later the Workers’ Party). He was chosen by the Soviets as the man to take the reigns of the new Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Kim Il Sung is still everywhere in North Korea. His portrait adorns every private home and public building. A pin is worn on every lapel over the heart, a statue and eternal tower dominate every town square which is usually also named after the great leader. The country’s most prestigious university, central square and stadium are named after him.

Having a big holiday in his honour reinforces the narrative and importance around his personality brand and leadership.

Kim Il Sung is generally adored throughout the DPRK even by defectors who choose to leave the country.

Kim il Sung seen over Mangyongdae birthplace at the Kim Ilsungia flower show
The Day of The Sun

The Song of General Kim Il Sung is one that you will generally hear a lot but even more so on the Day of the Sun. The song was composed in 1946 and is the first song to mention the leader’s name.

It has risen to become the most important song in North Korea, higher than even the national anthem – “the Aegukka”. Have a listen! 

Travel to North Korea

There’s no better time of year to visit North Korea than around the day of the sun.

The week coincides with the Pyongyang marathon.

You can join a tour that takes in both the President’s birthday and the marathon; making it the ultimate tour to North Korea.

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Rocky road travel founder Shane Horan at the DMZ

Shane Horan


When Shane is not endlessly writing award winning content for Rocky Road, he's usually kayaking to and from the beer garden along Berlin's River Spree.