On August 15, 2021, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a congratulatory telegram to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Korea’s national holiday, Liberation Day. Putin’s telegram stated that Russia honors the memory of soldiers of the Red Army and the Korean patriots who gave their lives in the struggle for the freedom of Korea. The good traditions of friendship strengthened in those hard years remain a reliable foundation for developing relations between Russia and North Korea.
On the same day, Kim Jong-un sent a wreath to the Liberation Monument on Mount Moranbong, laid by Party Central Committee Secretary Ri Il-hwan. On the ribbon of the wreath was written, “We keep the memory of the deeds of the fallen Soviet soldiers.” According to the KCNA, participants in the laying down “observed a moment of silence for the fallen Soviet soldiers who gave their precious lives, with noble international duty, in the holy war for the liberation of Korea.”
This monument is not far from the statues of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. It fits into the ensemble of Pyongyang’s memorial sites. They continued to take care of it even during hard times, when relations between Yeltsin’s Russia and North Korea were not the best, to put it mildly.
Savvy liberal journalists immediately pointed out that although August 15 is celebrated in both parts of divided Korea, the Russian president openly congratulated the leadership of the North but ignored the leadership of the South. This led to accusations that Russia supports the “totalitarian” North. The author had to comment on this: the holiday falls on the same date. It is connected with liberation from the Japanese yoke. Yet in fact, the North and the South celebrate for different reasons.
The DPRK (North Korea) celebrates “National Liberation Day” when Japanese troops in Korean territory ceased their resistance. However, the Japanese “surrendered unexpectedly early.” As of August 15, parts of North Korea and all of South Korea had not yet been liberated by the Soviet army. For those territories where the Red Army had not reached, the victory looked like a sudden change of power, to which the Korean fighters for the liberation of the motherland had no direct relation. This is a very bitter topic of a “victory not actually achieved” because Kim Il Sung’s guerrillas did not appear in Korea at the same time as the Soviet troops.