As I mentioned before, one of the surprises in visiting North Korea was how the cult of personality based around the Kims was even more severe than I expected. President-for-eternity Kim Il Sung’s smiling chubby face was everywhere, including the sides of buildings, numerous shrines and mosaics, and upon the left breast of every North Korean citizen over the age of 15. (When we asked what happens if you lose your Kim badge, we were told it would never happen, nobody would be so careless.)
Other interesting indications of the magnitude of the cult were the bowling alley that had, under perspex, a bowling ball once admired by Kim Il Sung; the giant monument; the Mausoleum itself; and the hilarious Museum of Metro Construction, nearly as elaborate as the metro itself, detailing the many strokes of Kim genius that brought the metro into existence.
Officially, of course, the Kims are humble men; the various enormous and expensive monuments are “demanded” by the people or are simply the “will” of the people. The Arch of Triumph even has a poem to Kim Il Sung composed by “the people”. Thus is it not surprising that the media, that is to say the voice of the people, also has a Kim fixation. Sadly, I do not speak Korean and can’t fully appreciate the Korean domestic media, but luckily there is a weekly English language publication, the Pyongyang Times, and I eagerly read a few back-issues. It’s transparent propaganda that makes Murdoch look like an amateur, but with the folksy feel of a small local rag; it’s like Pravda meets the Port Fairy Gazette.
Here are some representative highlights. Sample below, or view this Flickr photoset with descriptions/comments.