North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

KJI To Permanently Lie in State at Ku’msusan

The Political Bureau issued a “special report” on 12 January (Thursday) announcing that the late Kim Jong Il’s body will be preserved to lie in state at Ku’msusan Memorial Palace.  The Political Bureau’s report also announced that a statue of KJI will be constructed, along with a series of “immortality towers.”  KCNA reports:

The Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea issued the following special report on Thursday: The Political Bureau of the WPK C.C. solemnly announces that it has decided as follows, reflecting the unanimous desire and ardent request of all party members, service personnel and people to hold the great leader Comrade Kim Jong Il in high esteem as the eternal leader of the Party and the revolution, glorify his sacred revolutionary life and undying revolutionary feats forever and surely carry to completion the revolutionary cause of Juche started in Mt. Paektu:

1. The great leader Comrade Kim Jong Il will be laid in state at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace, the sacred temple of juche.

2. The statue of the great leader Comrade Kim Jong Il will be erected with respect.

3. February 16, the greatest auspicious holiday of the nation when the great leader Comrade Kim Jong Il was born, will be instituted as the Day of the Shining Star.

4. Portraits of the great leader Comrade Kim Jong Il with smile on his face and towers to his immortality will be built across the country.

An immortality tower near Kim Il Sung Square in central Pyongyang. After the late DPRK President passed away in 1994, a series of "longevity prayer towers" were converted to "eternal life towers." (Photo: KCNA)

The scholar Andrei Lankov wrote a fantastic essay for Asia Times about the preservative culture of political leaders:

When Kim Il-sung, the founding father of the North Korean state, died in 1994, North Korean authorities immediately decided to follow the established tradition and embalm his body to put on display. They decided to commission Russian (formerly Soviet) experts to do the job, even though relations between the two states were at an all-time low.

No doubt the “Lenin laboratory” was quite happy to get this order. Communist Party rule had ended in 1991 and the laboratory had lost its highly privileged standing. Despite some protests, Lenin’s body has remained in the mausoleum, but his scientific protectors could no longer rely on generous government subsidies and had to make money for themselves.

Surprisingly, families of some nous riche Russians were willing to pay for the macabre procedure, but this was clearly not enough to keep the laboratory going. Therefore, Kim Il-sung’s death was actually good news for the struggling scientists.

It is not known how much money the North Korean government paid to the Russian scientific team. According to rumors, the price tag was around US$1 million – additionally, $800,000 has been spent annually to keep the body in good shape. It is also unknown to what extent the Russian team has been involved in the daily upkeep of the body.

It seems that most, if not all, routine work in Pyongyang is done by North Korean scientists (one should not be surprised by this – for such an impoverished state, North Korea is remarkably well educated).

North Korea’s version of a mausoleum is remarkably different from that in other communist countries that tend to emulate the Soviet prototypes. The Soviet mausoleum is a small building that was dedicated to the body itself and necessary preservation equipment.

North Koreans chose instead to convert Kim Il-sung’s official residence into his resting place. It is much larger and more elaborate than any other mausoleum worldwide.

Visitors who come to Kim Il-sung’s mausoleum do not queue for hours outside the entrance. Instead, they ushered into a chain of halls that are dedicated to the memory of the great man (and also commemorate the popular belief about his demise in 1994). His glass coffin is located on the top floor of the building.

Unlike Soviet citizens, who could just pass by, visitors to Kumsusan memorial palace are required to bow three times, in three different places, in front of Kim Il-sung. In a nice touch, visitors en route to Kim Il-sung’s body pass through a full body dust remover – to decrease the chances of some dangerous germs getting in.

There is little doubt that Kim Jong-Il’s body will be treated in the same way. After his death on December 17, it has been reported that the Russian scientists have once again been invited to Pyongyang. More recent reports, however, state that the preservation work will be done by North Korean embalmers.

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