Kim Jong-il is dead, and I don’t hear any mourning. What I have heard, however, over the course of many years, are fantastic claims that he had made about himself and his abilities. Let us take a few minutes and look back at those claims, shall we?
He was North Korea’s pint-sized dictator and as such was a master of propaganda and social manipulation. He also apparently suffered from insecurity, delusion, and severe OCD.
Here are some “facts” about Kim Jong il, as reported by the international media. The word “facts” is in quotes because some of the items on the list are examples of propaganda that Kim used to brainwash his citizens into maintaining his almost god-like image. Others are just crazy enough to be true.
“Fact” 1 : He had a “supernatural” birth – According to North Korean historical literature, Kim Jong-il was born in a log cabin inside a secret base on Korea’s most sacred mountain, Mt. Paekdu. At the moment of his birth, a bright star lit up the sky, the seasons spontaneously changed from winter to spring, and rainbows appeared. This contradicts way less interesting Western accounts of his birth, which state the dictator was born in a guerrilla camp in Russia, while his father was on the run from the Japanese. As he grew older, the rumor spread that his mood could control the weather. As you might imagine, North Korean textbooks are very Kim-centric. School children were taught that Kim does not produce urine or feces like a regular human. He transcends that.
“Fact” 2: He was loved the world over – According to the state-run North Korean media, Kim Jong-il was the most prominent statesman in the world, and people in countries the whole planet over celebrate his birthday with films and festivals. In reality, most nations were confused and annoyed by his erratic foreign policy decisions on important issues such as N. Korea’s nuclear program.
“Fact” 3: He was the best natural golfer in history – In 1994 news organizations in Pyongyang reported on the opening of the first ever golf course in the communist nation of North Korea. “Dear Leader”, as he enjoyed being called, had never played before but he wanted to give it a try. Turns out he was by far the best natural golfer ever known to human-kind. He reportedly shot 38 under par on the regulation 18 hole golf course. That is 25 shots better than the best round in history. Oh, did I mention that his score included no fewer than 5 holes in one? It did. All seventeen of his bodyguards who witnessed the event swear to the authenticity of this story.
“Fact” 4: He invented the hamburger – Any influences from American society have long ago been banned in North Korea. This let Mr. Kim free to invent all kinds of “new” items and claim them as his own. One of his more popular ideas was a food item that he called the “double bread and meat”. On this side of reality we call it a hamburger. He said he developed this “meat on a bun” sandwich to ensure quality nutrition to university students. There is still no word on if he had a hand in the development of beer, or as he might have called it “carbonated amber inhibition reducing fluid”.
From the just crazy enough to be true files: The following items are true. You can’t say Mr. Kim didn’t live large.
Fact 5: He once kidnapped a prominent director to film a Godzilla movie for him – True. Shin Sang-ok, a South Korean filmmaker, was kidnapped under the orders of Kim Jong-il, sent to prison, and eventually forced to make a film called Pulgasari that was basically a communist propaganda version of Godzilla. By all accounts the film was terrible, but Kim loved it, and wanted to make a sequel. In 1986, he began working on a deal with an Austrian film company to distribute that film, and took Shin to go meet with them in Vienna. In Vienna, he managed to escape, and, after a taxi chase with some of Kim’s bodyguards, Shin found safety in the American embassy. He later made his way to the United States where he made a movie staring Hulk Hogan and Jim Varney.
Fact 6: He had disabled and short people deported from his capital – In preparation for the World Festival of Youth and Students in 1989, Kim Jong-il had disabled residents removed from Pyongyang. Mr. Kim was at most 5′ 3″ tall even with platform shoes and bouffant hair. He hated his short stature and disliked short people in general. He had governmental officials distribute pamphlets advertising a wonder drug that would increase the height of short people. Those who responded to the pamphlets were sent away to different uninhabited islands along with the disabled in an attempt to rid the next generation of their supposedly substandard genes.
Fact 7: At one time Kim was the world’s biggest buyer of Hennessy – True. Back in the early 1990′s Hennessy, the makers of fine cognac, stated that indeed Kim Jong-il was its best customer, spending about $600,000 to $850,000 annually on the liquor. He was partial to the Paradis cognac, which can sell for over $700 per bottle. In comparison, the average North Korean makes about $1000 per year.
Fact 8: He built a city that was made just to be looked at – This is true. The city of Kijong-Dong is very real, but it isn’t exactly a typical city. It is a propaganda city that was originally built in the 1950s by Kim Jong-il’s father right on the border between the two Koreas; this was to display the North’s superiority to the South and also to encourage people to defect. The city has no actual residents, but an extensive effort has been put forth to simulate a functioning city, including lights on set timers, and street sweepers to create an illusion of activity. Surveillance has revealed that the units lack window glass, and some buildings are just concrete shells that don’t even have interior rooms. The city also houses the world’s largest flagpole, complete with a 300lb. North Korean flag.
At first, on national television Mr. Kim’s cause of death was described as being from physical and mental over-work. It was later revealed that he had an acute myocardial infarction. Now the world sits and waits to see who will be the next “Dear Leader”.
Eleven Craziest Kim Jong-il Moments – PyongyangTrafficGirls.com
The Official Webpage of The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) – WWW.korea-dpr.com
Birthday Praise for North Korea’s Kim – CNN International
Two Minute Bio: Kim Jong-il – Time Online
A Nation of Racist Dwarfs – Slate