Kim Jong Il once said he regards “the people” as “the most beautiful and excellent beings in the world and deeply worships them.” But in reality nothing could be further from the truth. Even before he took over as leader, there were signs the younger Kim would maintain — and perhaps exceed — his father's hard-line stance.

The high level defector Hwang Jang-yop told the New York Times: “As a politician or leader who can work for the development of the state and the happiness of the people, he is a F student, a dropout. But as a dictator he has an excellent ability. He can organize people so they can’t move, can’t do anything, and he can keep them under his ideology. As far as I know, the present North Korean dictatorial system is the most precise and thorough in history.”

Hwang said that foreign aid helped Kim Jong Il stay in power by providing him with resources to pay the people — namely in the military — whose loyalty he needs to survive. He said Kim Jong Il has little interest in improving the lives of ordinary North Koreans.

Peter Maass wrote in the New York Times Magazine: “Kim's control over the military and his insinuation of loyalists into key command positions are a linchpin of his hold on power. He travels often within North Korea, particularly to military bases, because, as he told the South Korean media chiefs, ''my power comes from the military.'' Though he has many posts, including general secretary of the Korean Workers Party, the one that truly counts is his chairmanship of the National Defense Commission, which controls the armed forces. [Source: Peter Maass, New York Times Magazine, October 19, 2003]

Jean H. Lee of The Associated Press wrote: “Defectors from North Korea describe Kim as an eloquent and tireless orator, primarily to the military units that form the base of his support. He also made numerous trips to factories and other sites to offer what North Korea calls “field guidance”....the North’s news agency reported on trips to a supermarket and a music and dance center. In order to run the center in an effective way, he said, it is important above all to collect a lot of art pieces including Korean music and world famous music,” the Korean Central News Agency story read in part. [Source: Jean H. Lee, The Associated Press, December 18, 2011]

Kim Jong Il’s Military-First Policy

Alexander V. Vorontsov of the Brooking Institute wrote: “The “Songun Chongch’i” or military-first politics mantra adopted by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il as a guideline for domestic governance and foreign policy has elicited mostly negative responses from Korea-watchers. Many view songun as the final phase in the deterioration of North Korea and a serious threat to neighboring states saying that an impoverished country of 24 million inhabitants supporting a military of more than 1 million soldiers is incapable of modernization and economic reform. They argue that greater military participation in politics creates a dual-pronged threat: the army may appropriate a greater share of already-dwindling state funds to increase its readiness and effectiveness; and the generals, supposedly the most militant sector of the policy-making structure, will have a louder voice in foreign policy formulation, which could lead to hostile rhetoric towards South Korea. [Source: Alexander V. Vorontsov, Brooking Institute, May 26, 2006]

“A less alarmist interpretation of military-first politics is that Kim Jong-il is trying to maintain the existing order, to strengthen his regime based on personal authority, and consolidate control of military forces with the goal of preventing an overthrow of the state. So, is military authority a curse or a blessing? The lessons from history are ambiguous, as states ruled by the military have experienced both prosperity and hardship.

“The implementation of songun in the mid-1990s increased the role of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) in daily life. The army began to participate even more in social and economic decision-making, from large-scale infrastructure development to providing its own food. While military personnel are required to serve for ten years, they spend most of their service participating in different areas of the country’s socio-economic life. Thus, the army is now not as heavy economic burden, and is serves as an important resource and catalyst for developing the national economy.

“The movement to the military-first policy has accompanied a gradual transformation of North Korea’s planned economy to the direction of a mixed economy. The result may eventually be a network of large, less state-controlled corporations that share close ties with government agencies, similar to the “chaebol” that Park Chung-hee created in South Korea. Because of this, the North Korean military is now involved in different spheres of economic activity, including foreign economic ties and trade operations, and will likely play a key role in this ongoing process of privatization.

“With songun also come changes in ideology. This change and its underlying goal of building a powerful and prosperous state – “kangsong taeguk,” are justified by flexible and creative interpretations of the bedrock ideal of self-reliance – “juche,” a nationalist ideology developed by revolutionary leader Kim Il-sung. The songun concept replaces the proletariat and the vanguard Communist Party with the army as the driving force in society. This innovation is significant because the army is typically a less ideological and more pragmatic institution than the Party.

“The army’s role in society is not the only example of Kim Jong-il’s liberation from orthodox ideologies. Since the early 1990s, North Korea has shifted its emphasis from socialist ideals to historical and spiritual values. This is reflected in the use of Confucian norms in public policy and everyday life, and legitimizing the state through reference ancient Korean kingdoms.

History and Meaning of the Military First Campaign

Robert Marquand wrote in the Christian Science Monitor: “ Military First started as a campaign to support juche, and as a slogan designed to remind Koreans that the nation is at war. It came packaged with a rallying cry called "dare to die," say refugees and Kim experts. (There's a dare-to-die pop song, and a dare-to-die movie. Recent internal memos brought by defectors indicate "dare to die" is urged on local officials due to a feeling in Pyongyang that young people aren't showing enough zeal to make such a dare.) [Source: Robert Marquand, Christian Science Monitor, January 3, 2007]

“Yet Military First may now be a tool for evolving a significant structural change — a new ruling elite in day-to-day affairs. For years, the North Korean state was ruled by the workers' party. Under Kim Il Sung, the party was the driving force in Korea — the main route to achievement and pay. Everyone wanted to join. (Party members in China and Vietnam are 5 percent of the population; a 1998 Korean Central report put Korea's membership at 5 million, or 22 percent, though it may be lower.)

“"The outcome of the Military First policy replaces the workers as a main force," says Haiksoon Paik, a North Korean specialist at the Sejong Institute outside Seoul. "North Korea's party has not been functioning as well as it is supposed to ... several positions in the Politburo have not been reappointed. Kim is not depending on the party, but a smaller, more streamlined military apparatus. This is due to his politics as a result of the nuclear crisis brought by the Americans."

“"Military First is not aimed at building up the military, which is already quite built up and strong," says Lee, whose dissertation is titled, "A Political Economic Analysis of the North Korean Regime." "It is about replacing the old party — First Rice — structure of senior Kim. If the party is unwieldy, the military will control the people on behalf of the leader."

Reforms Under Kim Jong Il

In 1997, tapes were smuggled out of North Korea in which Kim Jong Il is heard saying that market economies work better than centrally planned ones. He also wrote in an essay, "Improving relations with the South is an urgent requirement" and "We have no insertion to regard the United States as our eternal sworn enemy."

Peter Maass wrote in the New York Times Magazine: “ Choe Hak Rae, a former newspaper publisher, said “ Kim Jong Il knows his economy has failed and wants to reform it. Signs of change in the north are already evident: some prices have been deregulated, farmers' markets have been established and North Korean officials have been dispatched to foreign countries to learn about business. The bear wants to get out of its cage, Choe says. ''The more he is regarded as the worst person of the century, the more he will become a dangerous man,'' Choe told me. ''But if safety and security are guaranteed for himself and North Korea, I don't think he will be a danger.'' [Source: Peter Maass, New York Times Magazine, October 19, 2003]

“Wendy Sherman is more cautious, but she and other advocates of engagement say that Kim believes, erroneously, that he can control the tempo and impact of opening up to the rest of the world. It is not clear yet whether her point of view has much traction in the Bush administration, which veers from warlike hostility to occasional murmurs of peaceful coexistence if Kim disarms.

“The notion that a dictator like Kim can be coaxed to reform has no real historical precedent. The most notable totalitarian regimes of the modern era — the ones developed by Stalin in the Soviet Union and by Mao Zedong in China — were not reformed by the men who shaped them. Reform of such states requires a degree of repudiation that the authors of failure are loath to tolerate, mostly out of fear for their own survival. In essence, proponents of engagement hope Kim will begin a process that will lead to his downfall. It seems doubtful that he will be sufficiently selfless or stupid to do that.”

Deception and Air-Brushed Reality as a Government Policy

Jehangi S. Pocha wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle: “To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the North Korean Workers Party's ascent to power, this capital city's giant posters of workers and soldiers, manicured parks, model hospitals and whitewashed skyscrapers were all spruced up to demonstrate that the unique brand of communism in this secretive hermit kingdom remains intact. At the colossal May Day stadium, a cast of 100,000 acrobats, dancers, singers, soldiers, musicians and children who made giant designs using colored cards enthralled audiences with an eerily precise extravaganza called "Arirang." As a group of sopranos sang a paean to the Korean national identity, Ryong Chol Li, one of the three government escorts accompanying us, seemed genuinely moved. "It shows how our people are united around the Workers Party of Korea with one mind, single-hearted," he said. [Source: Jehangi S. Pocha, San Francisco Chronicle, November 13, 2005]

“But the decay and poverty could not be entirely stage-managed away. After dusk, as the show ended, there were few lights in Pyongyang. This city, like the entire country, is chronically short of power. Outside the capital, the legacy of the famine and natural disasters — which collectively killed up to 3 million people during the mid- to late 1990s, according to the U.S. Institute of Peace — was on view. Along a bumpy tar road to the Demilitarized Zone that separates North Korea from South Korea, peasants in ragged clothes combed recently reaped rice fields for leftover grains.

“Government escorts forbade talking with the people scavenging in the fields or taking their photographs. North Koreans might become enraged, they said, at seeing Americans in their country, and pictures would make "the world think all North Koreans are hungry and that there is famine in the country." "In fact, we're having a bumper crop this year," said Jiang, a Foreign Ministry escort who would not give his full name. Elsewhere, he pointed to groups of schoolchildren and office workers from the city who had been drafted by the government to work alongside farmers in the fields for up to two weeks during the harvesting season. "This is how we work — as a single society, single unit, with everyone dedicated to the national cause," he said.”

Kim Jong Il and North Korea’s Famine

Philip Gourevitch wrote in the Observer: “One of Kim Jong Il's first policy initiatives after his father's death in 1994 was to call on the United Nations' World Food Programme for help in feeding North Korea's famished population. At first, this request, which amounted to an admission of the state's destitution, was seen as an astonishing softening of the Juche line. The sort of international assistance that would be required to compensate for the near-50 per cent food deficit in North Korea always comes with conditions from donors and creates pressure for political and economic reform on the recipient. But it quickly became clear that Kim Jong Il was not prepared to expose his country to the scrutiny of foreign agents just to save the people from starvation. On the contrary, the regime, having declared itself in need, appeared bent on preventing anyone from seeing the extent of the famine. The few, individually vetted foreign aid workers who received visas were mostly kept penned up in Pyongyang and allowed to visit rural areas only under the strict control of government handlers. What they saw on these guided tours perplexed them. [Source: Philip Gourevitch, Observer Magazine, The Guardian, November 2, 2003]

Andrew Natsios, the head of USAID, was in North Korea at the time as an officer of the humanitarian organisation World Vision, and he describes the problem in his book The Great North Korean Famine: 'Before expatriate relief workers entered a city or rural area to do their work, the local authorities swept the streets of any evidence of famine. Beggars, emaciated people, abandoned children, debris and dead bodies were removed from the streets. People were told to stay indoors if they did not have presentable clothing to wear. One relief worker who spoke Korean watched a truck drive through a village just before the arrival of a visiting non-governmental organisation [NGO] delegation, announcing over a loudspeaker that people should get off the streets. Only party members were permitted outside their homes to take their ration of food aid while the NGO food monitors were in the city.'

Jerrold Post wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “Kim Jong Il has shown a remarkable indifference to his people’s suffering. Early in the famine, Kim cut off nearly all food supplies to the four eastern provinces, also denying them access to international aid. From 1997 to 1999, on Kim’s orders, several hundred thousand people displaced by the famine were herded into camps, where many died of hunger and exposure. Moreover, witnesses say, Kim has ordered the systematic killing of babies born in North Korea’s camps for political prisoners. [Source: Jerrold Post, Professor of Psychiatry, Political Psychology and International Affairs and Director of the Political Psychology Program at the George Washington University, Los Angeles Times, February 23, 2003]

Kim Jong Il’s Disastrous Economic Policies

Nicholas Eberstadt wrote in the Los Angeles Times: Kim Jong Il was nothing less than an economic catastrophe for North Korea. His political ascent, in fact, tracks almost precisely with that ill-fated nation's shift to economic stagnation and then its frightening free-fall into abject mass misery. [Source: Nicholas Eberstadt, Los Angeles Times, December 21, 2011. Eberstadt is a political economist at the American Enterprise Institute]

“North Korea's economy was actually ahead of South Korea's in the 1960s and early 1970s. That was before Kim Jong Il tried his hand at policy. But by the late 1970s the "Party Center" (as he was first mysteriously identified in DPRK media) was a rising influence — and by the early 1980s, the Dear Leader, who had made his public debut in 1980, was in charge of day-to-day domestic policy. By then, it was already painfully obvious that the North was lagging badly behind the South, with the gap widening with every passing year. With the death of his father in 1994, Kim Jong Il assumed total control. In 1995, as South Korea was getting ready to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development — the exclusive club of aid-giving industrial democracies — North Korea joined the club of Fourth World countries issuing emergency appeals for famine aid.

“Kim Jong Il did not immiserate his country in a fit of absent-mindedness. Quite the contrary: It was a direct but incidental consequence of a grand strategy he relentlessly pursued. His father, the Great Leader, may have been a monster — it was he who launched the Korean War and perfected the North Korean police-terror state, among other things — but he nevertheless retained a measure of peasant cunning and pragmatism: Kim Il Sung recognized that people would work harder and better if you paid them more, for example, and he wrote as much in his collected "Works."

“The Dear Leader, by contrast, would have none of this. In his ideologized worldview, granting North Korean workers material incentives and blandishments would risk fueling "egotism" and "bourgeois thinking" — potentially lethal afflictions for North Korea's pristine socialist system. From Kim Jong Il's standpoint, the survival of the juche (self-reliance) state depended on extirpating — or better yet, completely preventing — any such noxious attitudes in the population under his command. "Reform" and "opening," he proclaimed, were regime slayers for socialist states.

Rather than face such hazards, he was perfectly content to pay the price of long-term economic decline for his near-hermetic socialist fortress — financing such foreign bills as absolutely could not be avoided for the survival of the system through a combination of aid-maximizing gambits, international military extortion and overseas criminal operations (drug running, counterfeiting, insurance fraud and the like). This is the vaunted "strong and prosperous nation" that the Dear Leader has bequeathed to his legatees: a ruined country, an enslaved and degraded populace, a corrupted and parasitic elite, a bankrupt ideology and an atomic weapons program.

Economy Shored Up with Drug Trafficking, Arms Sales and Insurance Fraud

Mike Mochizuki wrote in the Washington Post: “ Rather than decisively favoring reform, Kim has been acting haphazardly, supporting dubious export products such as ostrich meat, tropical fish and maple syrup. Instead of reviving the economy, he is engaging in drug trafficking, counterfeiting and missile sales to acquire much-needed hard cash. [Source: Mike Mochizuki, Washington Post, June 19, 2005. Mochizuki is director of the Sigur Center for Asian Studies at George Washington University]

According to the “Columbia Encyclopedia”: “Continuing economic deterioration in the North led in 2002 to a number of reforms and plans for the establishment of special economic zones in Sinuiju and Kaesong. The North also was accused of attempting to earn hard currency through the illegal drug trade, the counterfeiting of U.S. currency and cigarettes, and (later) insurance fraud. In 2003 a North Korean cargo ship was seized by Australia after the crew was observed unloading heroin. [Source: “Columbia Encyclopedia”, 6th ed., The Columbia University Press]

“In 2005, the U.S. government imposed sanctions on a Macao bank accused of laundering North Korean earnings from illegal activities, including counterfeiting U.S. money. The move, which came after a four-year investigation and appeared to have been undertaken in part in attempt to force North Korea to make nuclear concessions, led other international banks to limit their transactions with North Korea. In 2006 North Korea called for the sanctions to be lifted before it would engage in further six-party negotiations.

In December 2009, the North revalued its currency and limited the amount of old currency that could be converted, leading to panic buying and inflation as the North Koreans sought to use up as much of their inconvertible savings as possible. The 2009 currency revaluation wiped out the cash savings of many North Koreans and there were reports of unrest in areas as a result of the change. In February 2010, increased social unrest reportedly leads the government to relax free market restrictions..

In June 2010, AFP reported that North Korea diverted tens of millions of dollars earned by its workers on African construction projects into secret funds managed by Kim Jong-Il, a report said. North Korea has earned more than US$160 million since early 2000 in orders from African countries for sculptures and other edifices, said Daily NK, a Seoul-based online newspaper run by defectors. It said the money has been managed by the communist party's Department 39, which raises personal funds for Kim by controlling key state corporations and financial institutions. 'Some of these dollars are used for domestic governance while the others go to secret accounts in Switzerland or Macau as Kim Jong-Il's secret funds,' it quoted a source in China as saying. [Source: AFP, June 23, 2010]

Entrenched Poverty in North Korea

Reporting from Hungham, Jas Gawronski wrote in the International Herald Tribune: “Yun Hyok's shaved head skims the ground as he turns and tries to get up. He's playing soccer on prosthetic limbs. His legs were severed two years ago, when he was only 5. It was not an accident, not a disease, but poverty. The legs got frozen in a house with no heating while Yun slept at -20 C. At the local hospital, with no technology, no surgical instruments or relevant expertise, doctors did not know what to do except to amputate the child's legs right below the knees. The hospital serves 3 million people, but it has only one old ambulance and no heating system. Here in Hungham, the second biggest city in North Korea after Pyongyang, amputation is a common alternative if a broken arm or a leg looks difficult to fix. [Source: Jas Gawronski, The International Herald Tribune, July 30, 2005]

“North Korea is a journey through poverty. Hungham is even poorer than Pyongyang, but there are no beggars in the streets, as in Rome or Paris. In a dictatorship, beggars disappear. Last February, the government of Kim Jong Il announced that North Korea had nuclear weapons. The claim was part of a strategy to acquire aid and to be taken seriously. … North Korea needs aid now more than ever. It produces 3 million tons of cereals a year, whereas at least 4 million are needed for survival. The income per head for a North Korean is 5 percent of what a South Korean makes. The official line is that this is entirely the fault of the West. ... “Our problems are caused by the hostility of the rest of the world, by the U.S. sanctions. South Korea has relationships with other countries, we are isolated."

“Things do look better than before. … There are more cars in the streets, and some new stalls, restaurants and decent shops - apparently signs of private initiative and a social class with money to spend. A parallel economy is growing. Foreign investment is desperately needed. The deputy minister of foreign trade, Kim Young Jae, said foreign investors would enjoy special treatment. When I ask him how he would persuade them to come to North Korea instead of China, he replied: "The 21st century is the century of all Asia." In fact, North Korea does nothing to attract investments. Here, time stopped 60 years ago, with a cult of personality, a huge army and a huge bureaucracy - things the modern world cannot accept.

“On an Air Koryo flight from Beijing to Pyongyang, flight attendants alternated standard safety instruction with messages such as, "The water you are drinking here is special for your health and longevity. Even if he's very busy, the Dear Leader, the benevolent father of our people, has studied in detail the problems of distribution in our country in order to give water to everybody. If you drink it, you will feel the sense of endless love of our people for the great leader Kim Jong Il."

Legislative Elections Under Kim Jong Il

In 2002, Kim Jong Il was re-elected as the chairman of the National Defense Commission — the main leadership position, the equivalency of the president — by a vote of 687-0 by the Supreme People’s Assembly. When the news was announced, the state news agency reported: “The entire Korean people, including servicemen, old men and women and children, are coming out of their houses and working sites and dancing with bunches of flowers in their hands.”

When the results were announced in the Supreme People’s Assembly, all members jumped to their feet and clapped wildly. While Kim Jong Il acknowledged them from a raised platform the members “broke into strong cheers of ‘Hurrah!,’ overwhelmed with emotion, jubilation and ardent reverence.”

Kim Jong Il was unanimously elected to a seat in North Korea's parliament following a 100 per cent turnout in 2009. AFP reported: Elections for the rubber-stamp Supreme People's Assembly featured only one pre-approved candidate in each constituency. But analysts are watching them for clues about an eventual transition of power in the impoverished communist nation. Mr Jong-il, 67, was standing in military constituency 333, a lucky number in Korean. The new assembly will vote later to confirm him as chairman of the National Defence Commission, the country's most powerful body. [Source: AFP, March 9, 2009]

The central election committee said "all the voters of Constituency No 333 participated in the election and voted for Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army Kim Jong-il," the official Korean Central News Agency reported. "This is the expression of all servicepersons' and people's absolute support and profound trust in Kim Jong-il," it added. Voting for the parliament did not take place in 2008 when its five-year term expired, amid speculation over Mr Jong-il's health. He is widely believed to have suffered a stroke last August.”

North Korea Officials and Diplomats Executed for Policy Failures

Kwon Ho Ung, former chief delegate for ministerial talks with South Korea, was killed by firing squad in July 2010 over policy failures, according to Dong-a Ilbo. Associated Press reported: “Kwon Ho Ung – Pyongyang's chief delegate from 2004 to 2007 for ministerial talks with Seoul's then liberal government – was executed by firing squad, Seoul's mass-circulation Dong-a Ilbo newspaper said, citing an unidentified source in Beijing. It is the latest reported death sentence for a North Korean official over policy failures. [Source: Associated Press, July 20, 2010]

In March 2009, North Korea executed two senior economic officials over a botched currency revamp that forced markets to close temporarily and fuelled social tensions, according to Daily NK, a Seoul-based media outlet that specialises in the neighbouring country. The North Korean won was redenominated in December as part of efforts to fight inflation and reassert control over its burgeoning market economy. That reportedly sparked unrest after many North Koreans were stuck with piles of worthless bills. It is not unprecedented for the communist regime to execute officials for policy failures. In the 1990s, North Korea publicly executed a top agricultural official following widespread famine.

In May 2009, the Korea Times reported: “North Korea executed its point-man on South Korea in 2008, holding him accountable for instituting wrong'' South Korean policies during previous liberal governments, Yonhap News Agency reported. The news agency said that Choe Sung-chol, former vice chairman of the North's Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, who disappeared from public sight early last year, was reportedly executed last year for hiswrong judgments'' on Seoul. [Source: Kim Jae-kyoung, Korea Times, May 2009]

“The news agency quoted informed sources as saying, Choe has become a scapegoat of what were believed to be wrong South Korean policies. Officially, the North accused him of corruption in handling inter-Korean matters.''However, the truth is that the regime there held him accountable for his judgments on the liberal governments' sunshine policy, and wrong predictions about the Lee Myung-bak administration,'' it added.

Choe, also a deputy director of the Workers' Party inter-Korean department, came into the public spotlight in 2007, when he escorted Roh throughout his visit to Pyongyang for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Choe is known to have played a key role in arranging the summit

Kim Jong Il’s Last Acts: a Supermarket Visit, Loads of Fish and Rage Over a Dam

Kim Jong Il’s last public appearance was at a supermarket in Pyongyang, according to the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo. The Huffington Post reported: “In a photo reported to be from the visit, Kim is seen on an escalator, which Chosun Ilbo reports is located in the country’s first supermarket. While the newspaper says the photo was taken on December 15 as part of what state media referred to as his “field guidance tour,” the Associated Press says the photo is undated. [Source: Huffington Post, December 19, 2011]

“According to the photo caption provided by the AP, among the people joining Kim on the escalator is Kim Jong Un, the dictator’s third and youngest son who is expected to take over his father’s position. Kim’s sister, Kim Kyong Hui, is standing directly behind the dictator, while her husband, Jang Song Thaek, stands two rows behind Kim Jong Un, according to the AP. The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) noted that the department store had “been renovated as a supermarket thanks to the initiative and great loving care shown by Kim Jong Il being considerate of the people’s well-being and improvement of their living standard.”

A few days later, Associated Press reported: “The people of North Korea's capital have received a special gift from recently deceased leader Kim Jong Il: loads and loads of fish. North Korea's state-run media reported that Kim was concerned about the supply of fish in Pyongyang and had looked into the matter the day before he died. A Korean Central News Agency report said Kim's young son and heir, Kim Jong Un, ''took all necessary measures to truck fresh fish to the capital city in time and supply the fish to the citizens, even in the mourning period.'' [Source: Associated Press, December 24, 2011]

“Official media on Saturday were filled with reports of the fish made available by Kim Jong Il. The Rodong Sinmun — North Korea's main newspaper — on Saturday showed a photo of a woman covering her mouth in sadness and gratitude as she watched loads of herring and walleye pollack being distributed at a crowded grocery store, where they were piled up in baskets. The paper added in an editorial that the country will uphold Kim Jong Un as ''supreme commander'' with vows made in ''blood and tears'' before Kim Jong Il. ''Leader Kim Jong Il is always with us as we have respected Comrade Kim Jong Un identical to him,'' KCNA quoted Song Hye Yong, a 42-year-old woman, as saying as she carried ''a bag full of fish in her hand.'' The report also quoted Kim Jong Hwa, a saleswoman at a grocery in the central district of the city, as saying she was deeply touched by leader Kim Jong Il's gift of fish to the people. ''All citizens are deeply moved by his deep care,'' she said. The reports did not specify how much fish was being made available.

Kim Jong Il lost his temper because of sloppy work on a crucial power station and project before he suffered a fatal heart attack, a South Korean newspaper reported a year after his death. AFP reported: Chosun Ilbo, a conservative national newspaper, said Kim’s indignation might have caused his sudden death. Kim was violently angry after belatedly finding out about a leak of water at the hydroelectric power station in Huichon, about 120 kilometres (75 miles) north of Pyongyang, it said. “Kim Jong-Il died suddenly while trying in haste to make a field inspection” of the power station, a source was quoted as saying. [Source: AFP, December 25, 2012]

“The power station was a key construction project launched by Kim to ease the electricity shortage in the capital. He had visited the construction site eight times since work began in 2009, but the 100-metre-high dam leaked water through cracks before his death, Chosun Ilbo said. The regime widely publicised the project as one of Kim’s great achievements when it was completed on April 5. The power station can generate 150,000 killowatts of electricity, and state media said it was completed in just three years rather than the normal 10 thanks to “heroic feats” by workers.”

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons.

Text Sources: Daily NK, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Library of Congress, CIA World Factbook, World Bank, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Chunghee Sarah Soh in “Countries and Their Cultures”, “Columbia Encyclopedia”, Korea Times, Korea Herald, The Hankyoreh, JoongAng Daily, Radio Free Asia, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, The Telegraph, BBC, AFP, The Atlantic, Yomiuri Shimbun, The Guardian and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2021

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