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Korea bans laughing


North Korea is forcing residents to observe an 11-day period of mourning for the 10th anniversary of former leader Kim Jong Il’s death on Dec. 17, sources in the country told RFA.

Kim Jong Il succeeded his father, national founder Kim Il Sung, when the elder Kim died in 1994. He ruled the country until his own death in 2011, and was then succeeded by his son, current leader Kim Jong Un.

Kim Jong Il’s rule coincided with one of the darkest periods in North Korea’s history, the 1994-1998 famine, which killed millions of the country’s citizens, according to some estimates. The period is now referred to by North Koreans as the “Arduous March.”

Though periods of mourning are held every year for both leaders, Kim Il Sung’s lasts only a week. Kim Jong Il’s death was more recent, so it usually has a mourning period of 10 days. This year’s is slightly longer because it is the 10th anniversary. Citizens are prohibited from showing anything other than solemnity in public while the country commemorates his life and achievements.

“During the mourning period, we must not drink alcohol, laugh or engage in leisure activities,” a resident of the northeastern border city of Sinuiju, across the Yalu River from China’s Dandong, told RFA’s Korean Service.

The source said that grocery shopping is also prohibited on the anniversary day itself.

“In the past many people who were caught drinking or being intoxicated during the mourning period were arrested and treated as ideological criminals. They were taken away and never seen again,” the source said.

“Even if your family member dies during the mourning period, you are not allowed to cry out loud and the body must be taken out after it’s over. People cannot even celebrate their own birthdays if they fall within the mourning period,” the source said.

Police were told in advance to be on the lookout for people who fail to appear appropriately bereaved, a resident of the southwestern province of South Hwanghae told RFA.