N. Koreans celebrate Lunar New Year with traditional food, folk games: state media

SEOUL, North Koreans celebrated the Lunar New Year on Saturday dining on traditional food and playing folk games, while also paying tribute to their two late former leaders on one of the country's biggest holidays, Pyongyang's state media reported. The Rodong Sinmun, North Korea's main newspaper, published an article in its Saturday edition describing the Lunar New Year as "one of the holidays that our people enjoy the most." According to the story, North Koreans clean up their homes and prepare traditional dishes to mark the Lunar New Year. The paper also said North Korean people dine on "tteokguk," a soup with rice cakes, with their family and take "sebae," a formal bow, before the elderly -- just as South Korean people do. North Koreans also play folk games on the Lunar New Year, including "yutnori," a board game played with four wooden sticks as dice. Even though it's a holiday, North Koreans don't celebrate the Lunar New Year over an extended holiday, as South Koreans do. Unlike in South Korea, whe re millions of people travel out of Seoul and its surrounding region toward their hometowns en masse during the weekend, North Koreans face travel restrictions. In North Korea, the birthday of its founder, Kim Il-sung (April 15), called the Day of the Sun, and the birthday of Kim's son, Kim Jong-il (Feb. 16), known as Kwangmyongsong Day, are considered the two biggest holidays. On the start of the new year, North Koreans typically visit the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun or statues of the two Kims in their neighborhoods to pay tribute to their former leaders. The reclusive regime began celebrating the Lunar New Year in 1989 on Kim Jong-il's order, and it became an official holiday in 2003. The Korean Central News Agency claimed Saturday that it was thanks to Kim Jong-il's devotion to the Korean tradition that the people were able to celebrate the Lunar New Year with joy. Source: Yonhap News Agency