The Highest Incarnation of the Revolutionary Comradely Love

29 12 2011

Category; Politics

North Korea has, in Kim Jong-il, a second departed leader to add to its pantheon; I was in North Korea a few weeks ago and, while it’s difficult to pick out a single strand from the fabric of that experience,  nothing can prepare you for the extent to which Kim Jong-il and his father, Kim Il-sung, dominate the lives of the people.

Constantly brought up in conversation, constantly with them through loudspeakers extolling their virtues in every building and every street, constantly watching through photographs on the wall or statues, integrated into their thoughts through education and work teams.

It is difficult to separate this supposedly socialist cult of personality from religious imagery and mythology. Facts are changed to create legends, supernatural powers attributed, and miracles attested – click here.

According to Barbara Demick – click here – every school has a room devoted to Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. Certainly every place we were taken to had such a room. It was the first place, and sometimes the only place you were taken to; to hear paeans to the exploits, wisdom and self-sacrifice of the Great Leader (Kim Il-sung)  and Dear Leader (Kim Jong-il), and you must listen, and listen respectfully.

But even that cannot prepare you for the awesome drama, significance and sacredness of the Kumusan Memorial Palace where the Eternal Leader has now been joined by the Highest Incarnation of the Revolutionary Comradely Love (click here for a full list of Kim Jong-il’s titles).

Rather than just vanity, it seems likely that Kim Il-sung (the Eternal President) recognised that people had a need for religious elements in their lives and that he could use that need. And use it his family has.

All the pictures below are selected to illustrate the cult of personality, they are split into galleries. If you click on an image it will open in an image viewer in a larger size.

Mansudae Art Studio

If you’re going to be an artist in the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) what better than to depict the sources of national inspiration?

Also appearing in these images is Kim Il-sung’s first wife, Kim Jong-suk; Heroine of the Anti-Japanese Revolution


Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum

Military prowess is perhaps the key attribute of leadership in DPRK. It’s why Kim Jong-un was so rapidly made a general, and why his powerful uncle, who is a party man, was shown in uniform after the death of Kim Jong-il. The defeat of the Japanese, the defeat of America (in the Korean War), and protection from what the people are told is a continuously imminent American invasion, are constant themes.

In the paintings below Kim Il-sung is single-handedly masterminding the Korean War (1950-1953) and giving guidance on the battlefield. The jeep is his.


Three Revolutions Exhibition

An extraordinary complex of museums devoted to this and that. I had been warned, but nothing could prepare for the grinding tedium of a visit here. These photographs are in the Industrial pavillion. In every image a leader is within sight, constantly vigilant.


Kumusan Memorial Palace

The site of Kim Jong-il’s funeral. There are of course plenty of photographs, paintings and statues of the leaders here, but greater than that is the overpowering sense of Kim Il-sung. A truly awesome place. It also seems to be by far the best constructed building in the country.


Mansudae Grand Monument

We were prevented from visiting or getting close to this massive monument due to renovation. Photographs of repairs, buildings undergoing repairs, and photographs of images of the Great or Dear Leader that do not show the leader in his entirety are forbidden.


Golden Lane Bowling Centre

Even the bowling alley shows off the visit by the Eternal Leader. It may look like a shrine, but this is, of course, a communist country.


Grand People’s Study House

Everywhere a North Korean leader goes, he gives guidance. It’s not always easy to narrow down the guidance that has been given. In a celebrated dispensing of guidance Kim Il-sung objected to the uniform height of the desks here. For his next visit they had created adjustable desks.

The classrooms here are described as typical; stuffed with brand new computers. That may seem unlikely. But what is typical is the images of the leaders on every wall.


Kim Il-sung Square

A picture, a flag, a slogan. This building is in Pyongyang’s main ceremonial square, but in those respects it is a typical North Korean building.


Pyongyang Metro

The cult of personality continues underground, including musical accompaniment. Inspirational music or music the leaders were partial to. There is no other music. Newspapers are on display. The leader, and his guidance, on every page.

I have read that the scratches on the windows date from their time before the carriages arrived in Pyongyang, when they ran on the East Berlin underground



Tomhung Hill; an entirely man-made mound created by the people to demonstrate their love for the Leader. We were told the lengths they had gone to after the original concrete base had cracked and they had had to replace it with a 700 ton lump of granite.

One of the people I was with pointed out something obvious to all of us; the new base had a huge crack. They said it had just happened and they were dealing with it. Perhaps it was a portent?

This is the site of one of the miraculous events described in the aftermath of Kim Jong-il’s death;

“a Manchurian crane was seen flying around the statue three times before alighting on a tree. The crane stayed there for quite a long while with its head bowed and flew in the direction of Pyongyang.” Click here for that story.



The people need to be inspired to complete the revolution. These minivans, some of the most modern vehicles in the country, running on fuel rather than wood, broadcast speeches and martial music. They drive around towns at 6am to ensure the workforce is up and raring to go.


This photograph comemorates a visit of Kim Jong-il to the DMZ (De-Militiarised Zone), the armistice line of the Korean War. It is in the room where the Armistice was signed.



A sea port – though with little sign of economic activity and we were kept well away from the industrial port area. The first image shows a square; even without a picture of one of the leaders there are slogans (often about them) and the visual symbolism of the regime.

There are then some pictures from an agricultural college (Wonsan Agricultural University) where we saw little beyond the room extolling the virtues of the leadership. The triangles mark the spots where the Dear and Eternal Leaders stood when they came to give guidance.

Then a couple of photographs from a children’s camp (Songdowon International Schoolchildren’s Camp); a statue of Kim Il-sung with some adoring children. There is also a view of it from the inside where the windows were freeing themselves from the building.

Finally the train station in Wonsan from where Kim Il-sung returned to Pyongyang. It has been entirely rebuilt elsewhere in the city, but they have located the actual train, and actual coach (including the actual seat) in which he travelled.


Side of the Road

A selection of images to illustrate the ubiquity of the leaders’ images. On every street, in every village; they are there. The picture of a little hut in the snow refers to the birthplace of Kim Jong-il, supposedly atop a sacred Korean mountain (rather than the reality of a town in the Soviet Union).

all photographs ©



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: