A source reported 4th May, "North Korea's elite are able to spend $200 on May Day celebrations, whereas the equivalent family of four from the ordinary lower classes can allocate no more than $5 for the day's enjoyment. The difference in living standards is huge." Of course, there also exists a large benighted class of North Koreans that can scarcely afford any meal, but it is possible to undertake an analysis of the general lower, intermediate, and upper stratums of North Korean society according to how much they spend on this annual festival day.
The 1st May (International Labor Day) is stipulated as a national holiday in North Korea. Given that North Korea advertises itself as a self-styled proletarian laborer and agrarian workers society. much meaning is attached to May 1st. It is also of significance for being bracketed in importance alongside such other key national holidays as the birthdays of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-suk, and Kim Jong-un; as well as celebration days marked out for memorializing the country, party, and military's foundation. North Koreans are also able to enjoy the festivities comparatively burden free, in as much as although it is a national holiday there is no imposition of a "festivities expense" as is sometimes the case with other national holidays.
The source said that the May 1st celebrations became a popular day for families to take to the mountains or enjoy outings in the countryside around the time of the mid-1980s. It was common to see Pyongyang's public parks packed with people. The capital's residents also enjoyed trips to the Moran Hill and Daesong mountains or a visit to Eulmil Pavillion.
"But at the beginning of the 1990s," the source went on, "differences in the way the various classes could spend the holiday emerged and as the "March of Tribulation" of the mid-nineties wracked the country class stratification in living standards in North Korea became plain to see. Based on the amount of money the elite spends on May 1st holiday food, it is forty times better off than the average North Korean."
The military, Central Party, and ministerial elite and their families form the top 1% of North Korean society. They spend at least $100 to $200 dollars on their May 1st festivities in the most expensive restaurants the country has to offer. The source cites a trade minister who spent over $200 per person in the Goryo Hotel's basement restaurant. A higher up in the military authorities took his five member family to Ryugyeong restaurant near Moran Hill District and spent $100 plus. This sum would feed an ordinary family of four North Koreans for at least three months.
Meanwhile it is reckoned that the 20% of the country's middle class would have visited Moran or Daesong mountains on May Day, and could have spent an average of $50 per family. "This strata is composed of the regime's core support class who live relatively well in Pyongyang. For example, one trading company official spent the holiday at a University reunion event at Moran Hill. They each spent about 20,000won ($8) on food and activities."
An lower middle class family of four could have spent about $20 on food. These are the people who started to profit from market activities after the March of Tribulation. "They have made investment and savings a part of their life," said the source, "and rather than spending big on May Day, they would have tended to spend the day at home or in the market according to their income levels."
Of course, the 60% who make up North Korea's actual laboring classes would have struggled to scrape together $5 to spend on the festivities. Far from being able to enjoy a full meat dish on May 1st, they would be lucky to get their hands on some tofu and soju.
“We can't use the money set aside for the May Day holiday as a yardstick," concluded the source. "But by looking at it we can be certain that the division between the various stratums of society in North Korea is surely going to get worse."
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