DEATH OF KIM JONG IL
Kim Jong Il died of a massive heart attack on December 17, 2011. It is said he died aboard a train from a heart attack brought on by pressure of work. His death after 17 years as leader was announced by state television two days after he died. North Korea’s news agency reported that he had died at 8:30 a.m., adding that he had been treated for cardiac and cerebrovascular diseases for a long time. He was 69. Kim Jong Un, Kim's youngest son, was named by North Korea's official news agency KCNA as the "great successor" to his father , which lauded him as "the outstanding leader of our party, army and people." KCNA reported people were "writhing in pain" from the loss. [Source: Jean H. Lee, The Associated Press, December 18, 19, 2011]
A "special broadcast" from the North Korean capital, state media said the 69-year-old died of a heart ailment on a train due to a "great mental and physical strain" on Saturday during a "high intensity field inspection." It said an autopsy was completed on Sunday and "fully confirmed" the diagnosis. Kim is believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008, but he had appeared relatively vigorous in photos and video from recent trips to China and Russia and in numerous trips around the country carefully documented by state media. "The heart of Kim Jong Il stopped beating, but his noble and august name and benevolent image will always be remembered," according to a message on the website of KCNA, the official news agency of North Korea. [Source: Associated Press, December 19, 2011]
The New York Times reported that news of the North Korean dictator’s death was kept secret for two days until Party officials were ready to make an official announcement regarding a successor: The two day delay was “perhaps a sign that the leadership was struggling to position itself for what many believe could be a particularly perilous transition.” A few hours after the announcement, of Kim’s death, the ruling Workers’ Party and other state institutions released a joint statement suggesting Mr. Kim’s chosen successor, his youngest son, Kim Jong-un, was in charge. KCNA said North Korean soldiers and citizens were swearing allegiance to Kim Jong-un. [Source: Choe Sang-hun and David E. Sanger, New York Times, December 19, 2011]
Kim Jong Il’s death and delayed announcement of his death caught the world by surprise. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak left for a trip to Tokyo about five hours after Kim Jong Il’s death, without knowing anything, and returned to Seoul after meeting with the leader of Japan more than a day later still not knowing anything. South Korea’s main spy agency and the defense ministry were completely in the dark until they saw the announcement on television, Yonhap news agency said. If Washington had known, it seems likely it would have tipped off South Korea and Japan, its closest allies in Asia. [Source: Reuters, December 20, 2011]
“No one was on death watch,” Ralph Cossa, president of the U.S. think tank Pacific Forum CSIS, told Reuters. “If anyone thought they had a good handle on North Korea, the sources were not that good. There is all sorts of human intelligence at all sorts of levels in North Korea,” said Cossa. “But certainly, the inner circle has not been breached. North Korea is very good at keeping secrets, it probably had procedures in place which it was implementing.” When founder Kim Il-sung died in 1994, the state kept it a secret for more than a day. Some reports say North Korea’s solitary ally, China, may have been tipped off about Kim’s death, and it did not share that information. “One would assume China would be the first to be notified,” Cossa said. “On the other hand, with North Korea, there is no such thing as a safe assumption.”
Grief and Extraordinary Phenomena at Kim Jong Il’s Death
Associated Press reported: “The state media has broadcast constant scenes of public mourning, with women and children wailing, soldiers bowing before Kim's smiling portrait and senior officials lining up to view his body, which is on display in a glass case at the same funeral palace where his father's embalmed remains are on view. "It is the biggest loss for the party ... and it is our people and nation's biggest sadness," an anchorwoman clad in black Korean traditional dress said in a voice choked with tears. She said the nation must "change our sadness to strength and overcome our difficulties." [Source: Associated Press, December 24, 2011]
Jim Hoare, a British former diplomat who served in North Korea after the countries established relations in 2000, told Sky News that television footage showing emotional North Koreans could be seen as "formalized grief." "This is what people expect to do on a sad occasion," he added. "Whether they genuinely feel it, I don't know."
North Korea has also claimed Kim's death generated a series of spectacular natural phenomena, creating a mysterious glow atop the revered volcano Mt. Pektu, cracking a sheet of ice on a lake with a loud roar and inspiring a crane to circle a statue of the nation's founder before perching in a tree and drooping its head in sorrow. State media reported that Kim "blocked the howling wind of history" in life and died at a time of abnormally cold weather and stormy seas. [Source: Associated Press, December 22, 2011]
In the days after his death KCNA published dozens of English-language stories online with headlines such as "Kim Jong Il's Life Bright as Snow," "Korean People Ardently Yearn for Kim Jong Il" and "Korean People Make Uninterrupted Efforts to Build Thriving Nation." Of his death, KCNA said: "In the morning of December 17 when he was on the train to make a journey of field guidance for the people the temperature was 4-7 degrees centigrade lower than the average, scoring the lowest this winter." The day earlier, it said: "In East and West Seas, the wind blew 10-15 meters per second, causing the waves to rise up to 2-3 meters. Those weather data make one more keenly feel the painful labors of Kim Jong Ilwho continued in common attire his journey of field guidance with patriotic devotion despite the biting cold weather," KCNA said.
Contradictin reports about his extravagent lifestyle KCNA said Kim "worked hard day and night, having uncomfortable sleep and taking rice-balls" while serving his nation. "Seeing his dedication, in tears, the people would ask him to stop making any more journeys along snow-covered roads in cold weather and sitting up all night," it said. More than 100 poems had been written in Kim's honor in the past two days, KCNA said, with titles like "Rise Up, People of Great General," "Field Car Has Not Stopped" and "Soldiers Do Not Forget General." The news agency said after the bad days surrounding Kim's death, a "spring of prosperity under socialism will surely come to the country thanks to the patriotic devotion of Kim Jong Il who blocked the howling wind of history till the last moments of his life."
Kim Jong Il 'Angry over Dam Project' Before Death
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.”
Kim Jong Il’s Health
Kim had a taste for cigars, cognac and gourmet cuisine. His believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008 and was believed to have had diabetes and heart disease. There were rumors that Kim Jong Il had serious car accident in September 1993. Chinese physicians asked for the advise on particular kind of brain injury. At his father's 1994 funeral, Kim Il Sung gave no speeches and looked weak and confused. This also lead to rumors that he might be ill. There are also rumors that Kim Jong Il received blood transfusions from virgins to prolong his life. The North Korean regime routinely photoshopped images of Kim to cover up liver spots on his cheeks.
According to a Swedish diplomat Kim was out of the public eye from 1977 to 1978 due to "his indulgence in alcohol". As he got older, he drank less. A guest to a banquet he hosted in 2000 said he led several toasts, insisting that his guests gulp their drinks down while he took only a sip of his own drink. He told his guest that his doctors told him that he needed to cut back on his liquor intake. He later stuck mostly to red wine, usually Bordeaux of Burgundy. During a landmark meeting with South Korean President Kim Dae-jung in 2000 he was observed downing 10 glasses of wine. Kim also is said to have smoked three pack of Rothmans a day. He reportedly quit that habit completely in 2003 and promptly encouraged his people to do likewise. After giving up smoking, Kim Jong Il is said to have still indulged in expensive cigars.
Kim Jong-Il's fear of flying was caused by a 1976 helicopter crash that seriously injured him according to Ingolf Kiesow, who served as Swedish ambassador in Pyongyang from 1979 to 1982. In an interview published in the Japanese weekly Shukan Gendai, Kiesow said: "I have met Kim Jong-Il up close several times. A close look exposed a scar from the top of the forehead to the pate. It was the scar of a serious injury, which he suffered when he boarded a helicopter and got involved in its crash inside North Korea toward the end of 1976." [Source: Japanese diplomatic writer Masayuki Koike, a long-time friend of Mr Kiesow. June 17, 2003]
Kim Jong-il’s Health About a Year Before He Died
After the stroke in 2008, Kim Jong-il’s health deteriorated so rapidly the process of naming Kim Jong-un his heir and preparing him for the job was speeded up. There were rumors that Kim Sr. had pancreatic cancer An effort was made import expensive medical equipment that Kim Jong Il needed even though the import of such equipment was restricted by sanctions imposed after 2006 nuclear test. A July 2009 report released by WikiLeaks revealed that U.S. officials in South Korea believed that Kim's health was failing and that he was "unlikely to live more than three to five years." The Japanese newsweekly Shukan Gendai said Waseda University professor Toshimitsu Shigemura claimed Kim Jong-il died of diabetes in late 2003 and after that was replaced in public appearances by one or more stand-ins. [Source: Chosun Ilbo, CNN]
About 14 months before Kim Jong Il died, the Chosun Ilbo reported: “Images of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il attending a military parade for the 65th anniversary of the Workers Party on October 10 showed the aftereffects of a massive stroke he suffered two years ago. He appeared weak throughout the ceremony and his face was expressionless, leading to suspicions that he may be suffering from depression, which is one of the side effects of brain damage. [Source: Chosun Ilbo, October 19, 2010 07:40
“A dark spot on his right cheek appears to be getting larger. It is being variously attributed to kidney problems or old age. Kim suffers from diabetes and his kidneys are believed to have been damaged as a result. If toxic compounds in the body are not released due to kidney problems, they build up underneath the skin, and if those areas are exposed to ultraviolet rays, the pigment darkens. Kim Hyoung-kyu, a kidney expert at Korea University Medical Center, said, "He shows signs of chronic kidney failure. In that case, a person's life is in danger as more than half the kidneys lose their function even after dialysis unless the person has a transplant within five years."
“Kim's stroke seems to have occurred in the right side of his brain, which affects the left side of his body. Typically, if nerve functions do not improve a year after a stroke, they remain damaged for life. His left shoulder appeared slumped as the muscles supporting it have grown weak. As a result, Kim cannot lift his left arm very high and cannot fold it inward. He can turn his head to the right, but hardly turns it to the left. This is believed to be due to rigidity in his neck muscles. He drags his left foot when walking as well. His face appeared grim throughout the parade. His lips were stiff and his face expressionless. Brain damage due to stroke often causes depression and experts say his expression is indicative of that condition.
Steps Taken by Kim Jong-il to Boot His Health and Libido
In 2016, a defector said that while North Korea was grappled with a massive famine in the 1990s, scientists were working at an elite institute to find ways to boost Kim Jong-il's longevity - and his libido. Reuters reported: “In the early 1990s scientists were sent to Denmark to find ways to improve the tenderness of North Korea's beef which Kim thought was too tough, said biologist Kim Hyeongsoo who worked at the center for six years. He told a human rights conference in London that some 130 scientists selected from the best universities worked at the center which was dedicated to promoting the health and longevity of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung and his son,” Kim Jong Il. [Source: Reuters, March 11, 2016]
“Scientists were tasked with developing aphrodisiacs using ingredients including the genitalia of male lions and seals as well as traditional medicinal herbs, Kim said. They were also asked to replicate the leader's favorite western brand of cigarette - Rothmans - with tobacco imported from Africa. The scientists were sworn to secrecy and could not even tell their families what they were working on. The institute was surrounded by armed guards and electric fences, he added. Kim said the center's work continued even as hundreds of thousands faced hunger in the mid-1990s. The scientist said he had no idea of the extent of starvation until he returned to his home town in 1998 and saw bodies lying in the street.
“Kim said it was well known that the leader liked to drink and smoke and had young girlfriends. "Some of the health problems that Kim Jong-il personally was much concerned about was heart function, diabetes, tuberculosis and also his libido, so this was the focus of our research." Kim said products developed at the institute were tested on humans as well as animals.
Kim Jong Il’s Stroke in 2008
Kim Jong-il suffered stroke around August 15, 2008, according to South Korean intelligence sources. Haroon Siddique wrote in The Guardian: A French doctor confirmed today that the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, suffered a stroke but said his health was improving. The failure of Kim to appear at a September military parade celebrating North Korea's 60th anniversary prompted speculation that he was ill or even dead. South Korean and US officials said he suffered a stroke in August and underwent surgery. [Source: Haroon Siddique, The Guardian, and agencies, December 12, 2008]
“After visiting Kim in North Korea, neurosurgeon Francois-Xavier Roux of Sainte-Anne hospital in Paris said the leader had suffered a stroke but had not undergone surgery. "I have the impression that he is in charge in North Korea," Roux told the French newspaper Le Figaro. His comments represent the first eyewitness account since Kim reportedly fell ill. North Korea has denied the autocratic leader was ever ill and state media has issued a series of reports since early October portraying Kim as healthy and active and making the usual round of visits to military units and factories. A dispatch today said Kim recently toured chicken farms and collectives in the countryside.
Roux visited Pyongyang for 10 days in August and went again and September and October 2010. James Pearson of Reuters wrote: “In 1993, French neurosurgeon Francois-Xavier Roux received a phone call in Paris from an unidentified North Korean official. The then leader-in-waiting, Kim Jong Il, had suffered a head injury from a horse-riding accident and they wanted his advice.” In 2008, “the North Koreans contacted him again. This time, it was more urgent. They flew Roux out to Pyongyang in an operation so secret Roux himself was unaware who his patient would be until he met a frail Kim Jong Il lying in a modern intensive care bed flanked by his doctors. "They were visibly anxious about the situation – maybe that's why they asked for a foreign doctor, since I had no problem asking Kim Jong Il questions, or telling him what to do," said Roux, who also met a young Kim Jong Un, whom he said appeared moved by his father's deteriorating health. [Source: James Pearson, Reuters, October 1, 2014]
Roux told Associated Press that he never understood why they had sought him out. "First, when they came to get me in 2008, I didn't know who I was leaving to go see over there," said Roux. "They don't say — they're very secret. When I arrived, he was in a coma. He was in intensive care, in a coma, in a bad way. My job was to try and save him from this critical state by talking with the other doctors, by giving medical advice, etc. He was in a life-threatening situation." Asked whether his medical care had helped bring Kim out of the coma, Roux replied: "That's certain." He said Kim was conscious and speaking before the doctor returned to France in September. After the stroke, Kim's chances of dying grew with time, Roux said. Roux said he "rather regularly" saw Kim Jong Un during his 2008 trip, and recalled that he was often at his father's bedside. Roux said it was "very difficult" to get a sense about the son's personality, because "he didn't speak to anyone" on the French medical team that Roux was leading. [Source: Associated Press, December 19, 2011]
Roux told the Chosun Ilbo that after he arrived at Pyongyang Red Cross Hospital, he was handed only the medical records of a patient, and was not allowed to see the patient, but insisted on seeing him in person because the records worried him. After many hours of discussion amongst North Korean doctors, Roux was able to see Kim. "He was unconscious and his life hung by a thread. My job was to bring him back to life with another doctor. It was the worst situation," Roux recalled. Citing patient confidentiality, Roux declined to say what he did for Kim. [Source: Chosun Ilbo, December 21, 2011]
Impact of Kim Jong Il’s Stroke in 2008
In September 2008, a month or after the stroke, Associated Press reported: Officials believe North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has recovered enough from a stroke to brush his own teeth but that sporadic spasms forced him to skip major events. Kim, 66, is lucid and has no trouble speaking, according to a high-level Chinese official who met in recent weeks with the North Korean leader in Pyongyang, the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported, citing an unidentified source in Beijing. [Source: Associated Press, September 12, 2008]
Footage from Japan's TBS TV from May 2010 showed Kim at a hotel dragging his left leg, an apparent result of the 2008 stroke. The Chosun Ilbo reported: “His left hand also seemed nearly immobile and his entire body supported by his right leg. Kim appeared on the leadership platform during a session of the Supreme People's Assembly in April 2009 with a pronounced limp. "It seems that he's suffering the physiological sequelae of cerebral hemorrhage or cerebral infarction in the right brain. This is why he can't move his left arm and left leg freely," a doctor said. "The fact that he can't use his left arm and left leg freely even though a year and a half have passed since he had the stroke suggests that the sequelae have reached a level where it's difficult to recover." Meanwhile, photos show that Kim has also lost a lot of hair. Experts speculate that may be age-related or point to kidney trouble as some dialysis patients lose much of their hair. [Source: Chosun Ilbo, May 5, 2010]
In December 2010, North Korea released footage of Kim Jong-il using left hand. The Chosun Ilbo reported: “North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has been spotted using his left hand fairly adeptly, suggesting that he is recovering from paralysis following a massive stroke in 2008. Some observers believe North Korean media deliberately showed footage of Kim using the hand to quash rumors that his days are numbered. In a documentary broadcast Wednesday by the North's state-run Korean Central Television, Kim repeatedly uses both hands to open and close a closet door in a newly-built apartment for artists on the banks of the Daedong River in Pyongyang. The footage was purportedly shot on October 8,” 2010. [Source: Chosun Ilbo, December 31, 2010]
"Use of the hands is the most intricate level of movement, so Kim using his hands freely signifies marked improvements from the side effects of a stroke," a physiotherapist said. "But it's uncertain whether brain and other functions have recovered completely." A North Korean source said even during the military parade on Oct. 10 marking the 65th anniversary of the Workers' Party, Kim Jong-il could barely walk and had to rely on railings to stay upright. It seems implausible that he had recovered completely from the stroke in footage shot two days before the parade."
According to Kyodo, two North Korean medical teams in charge of looking after Kim Jong-il's health were secretly trained in brain disease-related rehabilitation in Singapore. The teams "consisted mostly of women who looked about 30 years old. The Singaporean government accepted the North's request for their training and let them enter Singapore," it quoted a source as saying. Jin Xide, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of Japanese Studies in China, was sentenced to 14 years in prison for leaking information about North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's health to South Korean and Japanese intelligence agencies, the BBC reported Friday. [Source: Chosun Ilbo. February 28, 2011; October 11, 2011]
Dementia, Dialysis, and Erratic Behavior?
The last years of Kim Jong Il’s rue was marked absences at major events and meetings delayed because of his health. There was one period of 50 days and another of 87 days when he disappeared from public life.
In June 2010, the Chosun Ilbo reported: Kim Jong-il has been displaying signs of memory loss and occasionally talks nonsense, National Intelligence Service chief Won Sei-hoon apparently told the National Assembly's Intelligence Committee in a closed-door meeting. "Kim has been exhibiting memory loss and saying things that do not make sense during his field visits," Won was quoted by lawmakers as saying. According to the NIS, Kim said during a recent field inspection at a potato farm, "People should not live on potatoes alone. They need to have rice, too. We should send them rice." The NIS attributes Kim's odd comments to the aftereffects of his stroke. South Korean intelligence officials said North Korean officials are worried about Kim's deteriorating condition. [Source: Chosun Ilbo, June 28, 2010]
In the last years of his life Kim Jong-il was undergoing dialysis every 2 weeks. In March 2010, the Korea Herald reported: Kim “appears to be suffering from diabetes and high-blood pressure, has been undergoing dialysis every two weeks and is on a diet and has succeeded in losing more than 10 kilograms since 2009, according to Nam Sung-wook, director of the Institute for National Security Strategy (INSS), an affiliate of the National Intelligence Service. "He has been on a diet to prevent a second stroke and is now maintaining a weight of around 70 to 73 kilograms," Nam said. In a lecture Nam underlined that the abnormally white fingernails of the North Korean leader supports the growing speculation that he is suffering from chronic renal insufficiency. Discoloration of the skin is a common symptom of the kidney disease, according to doctors. [Source: Lee Tae-hoon, Korea Times, March 24, 2010]
In 2010 there was a report that Kim Jong-il ordered the demolition and rebuilding of a theater that was in perfect condition, raising suspicions that his judgment had been severely impaired by the 2008 stroke. Citing North Korean sources, Radio Free Asia reported that a national theater in Pyongyang was demolished in May and is being reconstructed. People there "seem to wonder why a building that was just renovated in 2003 is being rebuilt." [Source: Chosun Ilbo, July 7, 2010]
The Chosun Ilbo reportedl: “The theater was torn down on May 9 just after Kim watched a play there, making his first public appearance since his visit to China early that month. Kim had apparently watched another performance of the same play there on April 27 and after his second visit had enough and ordered it rebuilt. "It's strange enough to watch the same play twice in less than two weeks, but it's even more absurd to order the reconstruction of a building that was renovated just seven years ago," said a South Korean intelligence official. "It appears that the aftereffects of Kim Jong-il's stroke are more serious than we thought."
Kim Ok: North Korea’s First Lady Ruling Behind the Scenes?
After the death of Ko Yong-hui, the equivalent of Kim Jong Il’s common-law wife, in 2004, Kim lived with Kim Ok, who had been his personal secretary since the 1980s and took over the responsibilities of the "First Lady." The Guardian reported: “Ms Kim, 42, "virtually acts as North Korea's first lady", and frequently accompanied the communist leader on his visits to military bases and meetings with foreign dignitaries, Yonhap said. She also travelled with him on a secretive trip to China in January, when she was received by officials as Mr Kim's wife, the report said. Ms Kim also met the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, it said. "She is a cute woman rather than a beauty like the leader's previous wives or live-in women," another source said. “Little is known about Ms Kim, except that she studied piano at the North's elite Pyongyang University of Music and Dance. It is not known whether she has any children by the North Korean leader, who is known to have three sons - one from his second wife, two from his third. [Source: The Guardian, July 24, 2006]
As Kim Jong Il became sicker in the last years of his life and term as North Korea’s leader, especially after he had a stroke in 2008, there was some speculation that maybe Kim Ok was playing a major role behind the scenes. Hyung-Jin Kim of Associated Press wrote: South Korean officials are keeping a close eye on Kim Ok amid some intelligence reports that she's not only nursing the ailing leader but also is signing official documents on his behalf. Experts believe the communist leader is retaining a firm grip on power, running the nation from his bed with the help of military and communist party chiefs in line with the nation's "songun," or military first, policy. But they are not discounting the role of the woman who is seen by some as the de-facto first lady. "She is the closest person personally to Kim Jong Il," said Marcus Noland, a North Korea expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. "In some ways, she's the one guarding the bedroom or hospital door. She would be in a position to convey his preferences." [Source: Hyung-Jin Kim, Associated Press, September 17, 2008]
“Kim, 66, reportedly suffered a stroke last month and is recuperating following emergency brain surgery — though North Korean officials deny the communist leader, who was last seen in public more than a month ago, is ill And Kim Ok may be poised to fill any void. Experts speculate the North Korean leader's dependence on her during his illness may further bolster her political clout. "If Kim Jong Il can't communicate with others, her role will be larger," said Kang Jung-mo, a North Korea expert at Kyung Hee University.
“One South Korean intelligence officer said agents are keeping a close eye on traffic about Kim Ok, including indications she is signing some official documents on his behalf. He said top military officers are likely carrying out key functions — but that Kim Ok probably wields more power than any particular individual.
Kim Jong Il's Body Displayed in Memorial Palace
The body of Kim Jong Il was displayed in a memorial palace in Pyongyang four days after his death as weeping mourners filled public plazas and state media hailed his successor and third son, Kim Jong-un, as "born of heaven." Associated Press reported: “ Indicating that the leadership transition in the communist dynasty is on track, Kim Jong Un visited the body with top military and Workers' Party officials and held what state media called a "solemn ceremony" in Pyongyang. [Source: Associated Press, December 20, 2011]
The Korean people were in "deep sorrow at the loss of the benevolent father of our nation," Ri Ho Il, a lecturer at the Korean Revolutionary History Museum, told The Associated Press in Pyongyang. "He defended our people's happiness, carrying on his forced march both night and day," Ri said. Still images aired on state TV showed that the glass coffin holding Kim's body was surrounded by his namesake flowers — red "kimjongilia" blossoms. He was covered with a red blanket, his head placed on a white pillow.
“The coffin was presented in a room of the Kumsusan Memorial Palace, a mausoleum where the embalmed body of his father — national founder Kim Il Sung — has been on display in a glass sarcophagus since his death in 1994. Kim Jong Un entered the room to view his father as solemn music played, state media said. He observed a moment of silence, and then circled the bier, followed by other officials. With the country in an 11-day period of official mourning, flags were flown at half-staff at all military units, factories, businesses, farms and public buildings. The streets of Pyongyang were quiet, but throngs of people gathered at landmarks honoring Kim, AP video footage from Pyongyang showed.
“Since Kim's death they have stepped up their lavish praise of the son, indicating an effort to strengthen a cult of personality around him similar to that of his father and — much more strongly — of Kim Il Sung. The Korean Central News Agency on Tuesday described Kim Jong Un as "a great person born of heaven," a propaganda term previously used only for his father and grandfather. The Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the ruling Workers' Party, added in an editorial that Kim Jong Un is "the spiritual pillar and the lighthouse of hope" for the military and the people. Young Koreans, the North reported, "are burning with the faith and will to remain loyal to Kim Jong Un." "Under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, we youths will creditably take over the baton of revolution and successfully accomplish the revolutionary cause of juche pioneered by President Kim Il Sung and led to victory by Kim Jong Il," Kan Ok Ryon, 26, was quoted by the Korean Central News Agency as saying.
Funeral of Kim Jong Il: Snow, Tears and Army Trucks
Kim Jong Il’s huge funeral was held in Pyongyang 11 days after his death. David Chance and Jack Kim of Reuters wrote: “Bleak pictures from state television showed a funeral cortege led by a limousine carrying a huge picture of” Kim “passing serried ranks of olive green-clad soldiers whose bare heads were bowed in homage in the main square of the snow-covered capital. A hearse carrying the coffin was led by a weeping Kim Jong-un, the son and heir, accompanied by Jang Song-thaek, his uncle and a key power-broker in the transition, and Ri Yong-ho, the army chief of staff. "Seeing this white snow fall has made me think of the general's efforts and this brings tears to my eyes," Seo Ju-rim, a red-cheeked, weeping female soldier, told North Korean television, referring to the late Kim. [Source: David Chance and Jack Kim, Reuters, December 28, 2011]
“One of the myths surrounding Kim Jong-il was that he could control the weather and state media has reported unusually cold and wild weather accompanying his death. Video showed weeping civilians who swayed with grief and shouted "father, father" as black Lincoln and Mercedes limousines and army trucks streamed past the crowds. It was not clear whether the pictures were live or recorded, although a state television announcer said it had been carried live. "I wished it was a dream, how can this be true," sobbed one middle-aged woman named Kim. "How can anything like this ever happen in the world?" At one stage, weeping women were held back by men who linked arms to prevent them surging towards the cortege. The procession ended after about three hours with 21 guns fired in salute as the top leadership looked on from a podium.
State television showed Jang Song-thaek walking directly behind Kim Jong-un alongside the limousine carrying the coffin. Jang ranked a lowly 19th in the list of names on the state funeral committee but his public elevation confirmed that he will play a key role in shaping policies. "Yes, we are watching and will be analyzing how any changes can be reflected in our policy," a South Korean government official said. "Kim Jong-un is clearly the head of the new leadership but, in terms of hierarchy and influence, Jang appears to have secured considerable position," said Yoo Ho-yeol, a North Korea expert at Korea University in the South.
AFP reported: “North Korean civilians were ordered not to wear hats or gloves at the snowy funeral because his son and successor "Comrade Kim Jong-Un will be escorting the General's hearse bare-handed" and hatless. Temperatures in Pyongyang on the day of the funeral fell as low as minus nine Celsius (15 Fahrenheit). Civilians were ordered not to wear hats, gloves or scarves even if it was snowing and were warned that "behind every line there will be people watching". [Source: AFP, January 3, Jan 2012]
Tears for Kim Jong Il Just for Show?
North Korean news reports said that 5 million people, about a fifth of the population, had participated in rituals during 10-day mourning period marking Kim Jong Il’s death in which demonstration of griefs are considered a patriotic obligation. Many say a lot of the outpourings of grief are just for show. [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, December 21, 2011]
Barbara Demick wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “Chu Sung-ha says he knows for sure that some of the people shown sobbing on television over the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il are faking it. Once, he was one of them” — at Kim Il Sung’s funeral in 1994. “If anything, this time around there will be more faking, more crocodile tears and perhaps some well-concealed smiles.
“Kim Il Sung was by most accounts genuinely beloved; “uri abogi,” he was called, the same Korean honorific used to indicate “our father” or “our lord.” His son was a more problematic figure who presided over years of famine and hardship. “There aren’t the same tears for Kim Jong Il after all the deaths and all the refugees. The people abandoned him in their hearts long ago,” said Yoo Sang-jun, 48, a defector from North Hamgyong province whose wife and young son were among an estimated 2 million North Koreans to die of hunger.
“Now, as in 1994, there is a 10-day mourning period in which a demonstration of grief is a patriotic obligation. People are mourning in front of large portraits in meeting halls and public squares. The events have followed the template set at Kim Il Sung’s death. In both cases, the deaths were announced at noon, when most people would be with their work units and under control. The same black-clad weeping anchorwoman who announced Kim Il Sung’s death appeared on television to announce the death of his son. A teacher said she thought that Kim Jong Il’s death would elicit less true emotion. “People follow Kim Jong Il out of fear and oppression, but Kim Il Sung seemed to work with sincerity for the people,” she said.
Insincere Mourners Punished
North Korean authorities are punishing mourners who failed to exhibit sincere sadness and despair after the death of Kim Jong Il, the Daily NK reported. Ben Forer of ABC News wrote: “The online North Korean newspaper, which is published by opponents of the governing regime, said a source in North Hamkyung Province revealed the information. The source told the paper "authorities are handing down at least six months in a labor-training camp to anybody who didn't participate in the organized gatherings during the mourning period, or who did participate but didn't cry and didn't seem genuine," according to the Daily NK. [Source: Ben Forer. ABC News, Associated Press, January 12, 2012]
“The late Hwang Jang Yop, a North Korean defector and former official, described similar punishments after the death of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il's father and the founder of North Korea, in 1994. "The party conducted surveys to see who displayed the most grief, and made this an important criterion in assessing party members' loyalty," Yop wrote. "Patients who remained in hospitals and people who drank and made merry even after hearing news of their leader's death were all singled out for punishment."
The Daily NK said its source also reported that North Koreans who were accused of being critical of the country's dynastic system were being sent to re-education camps or banished with their families to remote areas.
Kim Jong Il's Body Becomes a Tourist Attraction
A few days after Kim Jong Il’s funeral, North Korea announced that his body Il will lie in state in perpetuity in Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang where the body of his father Kim Il Sung also lies in perpetuity. [Source: AFP. Fox News, January 12, 2012]
The mausoleum containing the embalmed body of Kim Jong-Il opened to tourists, who must follow a strict protocol, in January 2013. Genevieve Shaw Brown of ABC News wrote: “Young Pioneer Tours, a five-year-old tour group specializing in off-the-beaten path destinations, was the first group to gain admission when the mausoleum was opened to the public. "We were hopeful that if we timed it right, the mausoleum would be open and we would gain access," he said. "It was a combination of great planning and a little luck." [Source: Genevieve Shaw Brown, ABC News, January 25, 2013]
“He described the experience as "surreal." While the other mausoleums he has visited house people he has only read about in history books, this was someone he had seen regularly on the news in his lifetime. The people on the tour, Johnson said, were "very moved. It was a very intense experience." And, said Johnson, Kim Jong-Il looks pretty good, considering his state. "He looks like a person," he said. "Not waxy at all."
All visitors are required to pass through jets of air to cleanse them of dust. Tourists are required to bow at the feet and arms of the dead father and son. However, they are not permitted to bow at the head, as it is considered disrespectful. Cameras and phones are not allowed. Kim lies in state a few floors below his father, national founder Kim Il Sung, in the Kumsusan mausoleum, the former presidential palace.
“His body was first unveiled to select visitors, including some journalists, on Dec. 17, 2012, the anniversary of his death. ABC News reported at the time that among the personal belongings featured in the mausoleum are the parka, sunglasses and pointy platform shoes he famously wore in the last decades of his life. A MacBook Pro lay open on his desk.
Kim Jong Il’s Birthday Celebrated with Goose-Stepping Anti-Imperialist Soldiers
Kim Jong Il’s birthday on February 16, — "the greatest auspicious holiday of the nation" — was named the Day of the Shining Star, according to the political bureau of the North Korean Worker Party's central committee. On the celebration on the first birthday after Kim’s death, AFP reported: “North Korea's military has paraded on the birthday of late leader Kim Jong-Il, pledging to defend his son. Battles can break out without warning, military chief Ri Yong-Ho told the televised ceremony, vowing to "wipe out US imperialists and South Korean puppet traitors" and reunify the peninsula in case of war. "Kim Jong-Un! Protect him with all our might!" roared thousands of troops from the army, navy and air force, state television showed. [Source: AFP, February 17, 2012]
“The event was the latest in a series designed to bolster loyalty to the Kim dynasty, after Kim Jong-Il died and was succeeded by his young and inexperienced son. The parade outside Pyongyang's Kumsusan Memorial Palace marked the changing of its name to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, a TV announcer said, in a tribute to the late leader and to his own father and founding president Kim Il-Sung.
“A black-overcoated Jong-Un presided in near-freezing temperatures over the parade, which also featured fireworks and a release of balloons before a march-past by goose-stepping troops. Dozens of military trucks, artillery and rocket launchers were also on show. Just beforehand, hundreds of top military and civilian officials paid tribute inside the marble-pillared palace to Kim Jong-Il. Soldiers in large-brim caps saluted a smiling portrait. Civilians bowed deeply before the image as solemn music played.
Their voices throbbing with emotion, TV commentators said "father General" Kim Jong-Il had "brought proud victory and glory to the country". "There will be only victory and glory in the future of North Korea...led by the respected leader Kim Jong-Un," a commentator predicted. TV footage depicted the late General Kim as a caring father figure. "The General (Kim) took time out of his busy schedule and deigned to visit my daughter's home, listening to this old farmer's concerns," an old woman said on TV. "There are no other leaders in the world like the General."
“In the run-up to the birth anniversary, the former leader has been posthumously appointed a "Generalissimo". A statue has been unveiled in Pyongyang, showing him on horseback alongside Kim Il-Sung. Commemorative stamps and coins, an art exhibition and a festival of Kimjongilia - a hybrid red begonia - also mark the day, as does an inscription 120 metres (400 feet) wide carved on a mountainside. Jong-Un oversaw the dispatch of birthday gifts by ship or helicopter to children on islands in the Yellow Sea, state media said.”
Legacy of Kim Jong Il
On where North Korea stood at the time of Kim Jong Il’s death. David Chance and Jack Kim of Reuters wrote: “Strong it may be — North Korea is backed by neighboring China and has a 1.2 million-strong armed forces — but prosperous it is not. On average, the 25 million North Koreans have a life expectancy 3½ years lower than they did when "Eternal President" Kim Il-sung died in 1994, according to U.N. data. The United Nations, in a country program for 2011-15, says North Korea's main challenge is to "restore the economy to the level attained before 1990" and to alleviate food shortages for a third of its people. [Source: David Chance and Jack Kim, Reuters, December 28, 2011]
“Indications from the transition suggest Kim Jong-il's "military first" policy will continue, meaning the military gets the lion's share of scare resources and further hardship for the majority in a country that endured starvation in the 1990s. Pyongyang's affirmation of the "songun" (military first) policy is a strong indicator that North Korea's policies won't change under Jong-un," said analyst Bruce Klingner of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank.
Ezra Klein wrote in the Washington Post: “When the sun goes down, North Korea goes dark.... Today, the per-capita GDP in South Korea is US$30,000. In North Korea, it’s US$1,800. The average South Korean is more than 15 times wealthier than the average North Korean. In fact, the average North Korean is one of the poorest people on the planet. That’s why South Korea is lighted at night and North Korea isn’t. [Source: Ezra Klein, Washington Post, December 19, 2011]
“Bad policies are about political power. The inefficient institutions are good for the people in charge. In North Korea, for instance, power is in the hands of the military, and the elites in the military do quite well.”...Even well-run nations should fear excessive inequality: If too much power and money flow to the few, they will become invested in keeping power and sustaining their lifestyle. Neither incentive is truly compatible with long-run economic growth. This is the problem that now faces North Korea. Even if Kim Jong Il’s successor, his son Kim Jong Eun, wants to move his country toward markets and democracy, the upper echelons of the North Korean power structure are stocked with elites whose lavish lifestyles are dependent on the status quo. Many of those elites are in the military. And few rulers want to pick a fight with their own military.
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