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North Korea orders parents to give children patriotic names like 'bomb'

Jess Hardiman

Published 
| Last updated 

North Korea orders parents to give children patriotic names like 'bomb'

Featured Image Credit: Natalia Kuzina / James Thew / Alamy

North Korea is ordering parents to give their children patriotic and ideological names, according to sources.

In recent years, North Koreans have been naming their kids gentler names that are easier to say – such as A Ri (loved one), So Ra (conch shell) and Su Mi (super beauty) - thanks to increasing influence from the outside world.

Sources say children are also being given names that end in softer vowels over those that end with harsher consonants – something that mimics the names of those in South Korea.

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However, North Korean authorities have started clamping down on this trend, according to a new report from Radio Free Asia (RFA), which says the country is now telling citizens that softer names not deemed ‘revolutionary enough’ must be changed to more ideological ones, even for children.

According to RFA, names meaning ‘loyalty’ or ‘bomb’ are ‘encouraged instead of’ alternatives that mean ‘loved one’ or ‘super beauty’ - yes, really.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Credit: UPI/Alamy Stock Photo
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Credit: UPI/Alamy Stock Photo

The outlet explains how, in the past, North Koreans were ‘encouraged to give their children patriotic names that held some ideological or even militaristic meaning, such as Chung Sim (loyalty), Chong Il (gun), Pok Il (bomb) or Ui Song (satellite)’ - a bizarre trend that is now making a comeback.

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An unnamed resident of the northeastern province of North Hamgyong told RFA’s Korean Service: “Residents are complaining that the authorities are forcing people to change their names according to the standards required by the state.

“Starting last month, notices have been constantly issued at the neighborhood-watch unit’s residents' meeting to correct all names without final consonants.”

Speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid reprisal, the male source added: “People with names that don’t have a final consonant have until the end of the year to add political meanings to their name to meet revolutionary standards.”

Another source said that officials are using meetings and public notices to instruct adults and children to change their names if they are considered too soft or simple, arguing that names without final consonants are ‘anti-socialist’.

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A school girl in front of a socialist realist mosaic at Pyongyang Metro in North Korea. Credit: Goran Bogicevic/Alamy Stock Photo
A school girl in front of a socialist realist mosaic at Pyongyang Metro in North Korea. Credit: Goran Bogicevic/Alamy Stock Photo

However, the source said many parents are ‘showing strong reluctance’ to the widespread order, saying it forces them to name their children ‘to reflect the current era of starvation and oppression’.

A resident in the northern province of Ryanggang also told RFA that the government has threatened to fine anyone who does not use names with political meanings.

“The order of the judicial authority to immediately change anti-socialist names has been emphasized at every residents' meeting since October,” he said.

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The source added that it is not known if the government will actually follow through and issue the fines, or how much these sanctions would be.

“Authorities criticized multiple generations of families for not hesitating to name their children with a mixture of Chinese, Japanese, and South Korean names rather than North Korean ones,” the second source said.

Topics: News, World News, North Korea

Jess Hardiman
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