“South Koreans eat cake but that culture came from America, in North Korea there is no cake.
But we would have food, drinking and singing and dancing all night and getting drunk and the party wouldn’t stop until sunshine”.
Getting drunk with friends till dawn, going on dates to the cinema, playing too many video games.
While these might sound like run-of-the-mill adolescent coming of age exploits, these activities took on a rather different form for Jimmin Kang in North Korea.
Living in a small, ordinary flat in a downtown area of the totalitarian metropolis with his mother, father and sister, Kang spent his days working for the Kim Il-sung Socialist Youth League and evenings playing pool with friends.
“I worked in the head office but we would go around factories, schools, universities and more teaching people Juche, the state ideology of North Korea,” he explains.Nevertheless in a country overwhelmed by electricity shortages, fun was often overshadowed by the threat of electricity vanishing and Kang says sometimes it was not possible to do stuff for days because there was no power.What’s more, he says if the government found you using heating during these periods, you could be sent to a Labour Camp.In other words, life in North Korea was lived out under the unremitting gaze of Kim Jong-Un. Standing and marching for three hours in the wintertime is horrible because it’s freezing.So much so that Kang would attend roughly three rallies for the supreme leader every year. But then in the summer it’s bad because it’s over 40 degrees.” On top of this, as a young teenager Kang would be sent to a village for 14 days of farming once a year.Drinking with friends was overshadowed by the fear of talking about the regime, going to the cinema was blighted by not being able to kiss in public and having to watch one film six times because nothing else was showing.Video games were confined to an interminable cycle of Mario Kart played on 80s consoles.However, on this particular day, even these past-times were off limits.Observed on 9 September every year, Independence Day is a public holiday which marks the founding of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and its liberation from the Soviet occupation in 1948.I would go a lot in summertime, about twice a week, because it’s very hot so you want cold beer”.Despite coming from a middle-class family, for the most part, he says other activities were out of reach due to costliness.