North Korea’s leader was believed to have turned 32 on Thursday, but no mention of it was made anywhere on state media in the isolated country. That marked a far cry from last year, when Kim received a parade in his honor and former NBA player Dennis Rodman took to the microphone and sang the leader “Happy Birthday.”
Kim’s age and personal life is apparently a closely-guarded state secret, and no celebrations have been held to mark the current leader’s birth. North Korea state paper Rodong Sinmun gave more coverage to Kim congratulating a centenarian on her birthday on Wednesday than any mention of the leader’s own birth. South Korea’s Unification Ministry, the agency that deals with North Korean affairs, recorded Kim's birthday as Jan. 8, although they put his year of birth as being either 1982, 1983 or 1984.
China offered its birthday wishes to Kim. "China and North Korea have a long-standing tradition of friendly exchanges. We have sent our message of congratulation," China's foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters, according to Korean news agency Yonhap.
North Korean workers who thought their leader’s birthday might mean a break from work were disappointed. “Just until last week, everyone thought we were getting the day off on the Marshal’s birthday, but yesterday, we were told that wouldn’t be the case” said a source in Yangkang Province to the Seoul-based North Korea-focused paper Daily NK on Monday. The source said that they were mobilized on that day instead to work to fill compost quotas.
"He is relatively young compared to his father, Kim Jong Il, who was officially named as successor at 42," said Cheong Seong-chang, a North Korea expert at the Sejong Institute to Reuters. "Kim Jong Un may think he can just hold back from public birthday celebrations for a while."
Ahn Chan-il, a former North Korean military official who defected to the South in 1979, said that there are too many other older military elders and cabinet members for Kim to celebrate his birthday in front of them yet.