Birthday Secret in North Korea

I never expected to be writing about North Korea’s Kim Jong-un on this blog! But, when the opportunity presents itself to be au courant, I can’t resist.

Just this month the North Korean Supreme Leader had a birthday. But, despite the way the country’s population is trained to idolize Kim Jong-un, there was no big celebration. In fact, the birthday is not even published on the regime calendar — although he is widely believed to have turned 35 on the 8th.

This secrecy is a departure from the traditions established by his forefathers. His grandfather Kim Il-sung’s birthday is commemorated annually on April 15 as “The Day of the Sun.” His late father’s birthday also merits a national holiday, “The Day of the Shining Star,” on February 16. Both dates are marked by mandatory viewings of state broadcasts praising the leaders — and you thought having to hear your colleagues struggling to say nice things about the boss over cake in the conference room was bad.

Birthday Secret

But the current regime has worked hard to mask the very existence of Kim Jong-un’s birthday. When Dennis Rodman sang the leader “Happy Birthday” after a Pyongyang exhibition basketball game, domestic audiences were told only that the NBA player sang “a special song.”

North Korea watchers quoted in The Telegraph suggested the birthday silence may be a show of respect to Kim Jong-un’s elders. He doesn’t want to be seen as anything more than the loyal follower. He needs time to build up his own “cult of personality.”

Or maybe he just doesn’t want people telling him how he’s supposed to act since he’s a Capricorn. His Zodiac sign is credited with a “social, charming and hardworking personality.” The astrology site I reviewed also noted: “While there are many people that prefer solitude, you are most energized by social settings, where you can display your charm, warmth and wit.”  Oh well, at least he has the capricious part of being a Capricorn down cold.

A Klingon Birthday

One of my writing gigs is to put together quizzes for Writing a foreign language one recently I thought I’d make a joke about Klingon. Well, joke’s on me apparently. There really is a Klingon vocabulary out there and available to the world. I ended up making Klingon a test question.

But, now I need to share with you my findings about Klingon birthdays!

A wiki “teaching Klingon to the galaxy” notes that “no known canon phrase to say Happy Birthday in Klingon. Nevertheless, the existing vocabulary makes it possible to translate the idea quite well.”

Apparently, the most common version is qoSlIj DatIvjaj, literally “May you enjoy your birthday.” Yet, some “people prefer to say this as a command: qoSlIj yItIv Enjoy your birthday.” After all, the Klingons are a pretty bossy race in the Star Trek universe — even I know that!

The site I found went on to share translations of the famous “Happy Birthday” song:


DuQuchmoHjaj qoSlIj. May your birthday cause you to be happy.
DuQuchmoHjaj qoSlIj. May your birthday cause you to be happy.
DaHjaj bIQuchjaj [name]. May you be happy today, [name]
DuQuchmoHjaj qoSlIj. May your birthday cause you to be happy.


qoSlIj DatIvqu’jaj. May you enjoy your birthday very much.
qoSlIj DatIvqu’jaj. May you enjoy your birthday very much.
qoSlIj DatIvjaj, [name] May you enjoy your birthday, [name].
qoSlIj DatIvqu’jaj. May you enjoy your birthday very much.

There’s another one about having a splendid birthday, but that seems to be taking it too far. I just don’t think “splendid” is a word the Klingons can relate to very well.

Even the Star Trek series didn’t translate Happy Birthday — instead heralding Worf with a Klingon version of For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow, which was met with his annoyed: “that is not a Klingon song!”

P.S. This blog is in honor of my older brother without whom I would likely have no idea at all about Klingon culture.