Puffing Up a Dead Dictator: N. Korean Media, Foreign Leaders Offer Effusive Praise for Kim

By Patrick Goodenough | December 29, 2011 | 5:51 AM EST

North Korean citizens in distress during Wednesday’s funeral procession for Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang (AP Photo/Kyodo News)

(CNSNews.com) – Condolence messages and news reports carried by North Korean media in recent days reveal the regime’s efforts to bolster the late Kim Jong-il’s prestige – and the willingness of some leaders and organizations around the world to lend a hand.

Pyongyang’s mouthpiece news agency KCNA has carried scores of reports on messages pouring in from governments, political parties and cultural and other organizations, along with the setting up of “mourners’ committees” in various countries.

Originating from such diverse quarters as the General Union of Syrian Peasants, the Brazilian Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) and the Sweden-Korea Friendship Association, the messages of sympathy are interspersed with reports on Kim’s exploits and those quoting North Koreans themselves reacting to his death.

New leader Kim Jong-un is also frequently praised, compared favorably with his father and grandfather, Kim Il-sung, whose died in 1994.

Even’s Kim Jong-il’s wardrobe – the zipped, khaki-colored jacket and matching trousers often seen in photographs, including those showing his body lying in state after his death – is the subject of several KCNA items.

That simple jacket, they implied, symbolized Kim’s unwillingness to set aside his mission of working for the people.

One report described his visits to farms wearing his “field jacket reeking of soil.”

Another recounted how Kim Il-sung told his son that he wore a plain jacket because “he still had many things to do for the people.”

For North Korean state media, Kim Jong-il’s simple “field jacket,” seen here in an Oct. 2010 file photo, symbolized his determination never to stop working for the people. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu, File)

Kim Jong-il had then been moved by his father’s words to pledge to do the same “and work hard for the people.”

“The Korean people have got used to seeing their leader in [the] jacket,” KCNA reported, observing that he would wear it “while inspecting army units and providing field guidance to industrial establishments and farms.”

“He is still in the jacket, encouraging the people to creditably accomplish the revolutionary cause…”

Pyongyang says Kim was on a trip delivering “field guidance” to various industries and enterprises when he died of a heart attack on Dec. 17, while on his official train.

In one report on those last days, KCNA said Kim had “displayed superhuman strength combating mental and physical strain and illness to bring the people’s desire into a reality.”

“His heart stopped beating on a running train to our sorrow. So lamentable is his sudden demise as he passed away, with the day when prosperous socialist Korea so much desired by him is to emerge, just at hand.”

“He uninterruptedly made field guidance tours for the happiness of our people,” a 100 year-old North Korean woman is quoted as saying. “How can I describe my grief?”

“Leader Kim Jong-il, please open your eyes,” said a 51 year-old mourner. “All the people wish you to come back.”

Although Kim was dead, a kindergarten teacher told her class, “He will be with our children as their eternal sun.”

KCNA also described how Kim Jong-un had tears in his eyes seeing mourners “wailing and calling the fatherly leader in choking voices.”

In turn, citizens had been “deeply touched by the warm love” shown by the new leader.

“Kim Jong-un, identical to Kim Jong-il, is the popular tender-hearted father and the sun of the destiny as he is the man the people will follow to the end of the earth,” the report concluded.

Irrepressible grief

Some of the messages coming in from around the world also expressed deep sorrow and effusive praise for the dead leader.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a message he “could not repress grief at the news that HE [His Excellency] Kim Jong-il, the great leader of the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea], passed away.”

Pakistani Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani “could hardly repress sorrow at the sad news.”

“We cannot repress our sorrow over the sudden demise of Comrade Kim Jong-il,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. “We share this bitter grief with the Korean people.”

Other leaders sharing similar sentiments included Angolan President Eduardo Dos Santos (“bitter grief and sorrow”), Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki (“bitter sorrow and grief”) and Jordan’s King Abdullah (“greatest sorrow”).

For Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, Kim had “commanded immense respect,” while Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Prakash Karat considered his death “the greatest loss to the progressive people the world over.”

Comrade Kim and the ‘imperialists’

Syrian President Bashar Assad said Kim “made a distinguished contribution to the accomplishment of the cause of independence against imperialism,” while the Syrian Ba’ath Party said “the world movement for liberation and peace lost the most prominent fighter who had defended the people’s right from highhanded practices and supremacy by the world imperialists.”

Palestinian Popular Struggle Front leader Khalid Abdul Majid expressed condolences “on the passing away of the great leader Comrade Kim Jong-il in the crucial period of showdown with the U.S. imperialists.”

“Kim Jong-il was the greatest man who devoted his all to the happiness and prosperity of the Korean people and the cause of global independence all his life,” declared Socialist Party of Romania chairman Vasile Orleanu.

In the U.S., Socialist Workers’ Party national secretary Jack Barnes extended a “comradely salute” and “reiterated support to the Korean people in their struggle to reunify the country and seek the withdrawal of all U.S. forces, aircraft, ships and conventional and nuclear weapons from Korea and the Pacific.”

In its recording of world reactions, KCNA noted that U.N. flags have flown at half-mast to honor Kim.

It noted that during a visit to the North Korean mission in Vienna, the head of the U.N. Office there – home the International Atomic Energy Agency and other agencies – had “paid a silent tribute to the memory of Kim Jong-il before his portrait.”

North Korea’s embassy in London had received a visit by a representative of another U.N. agency, the International Maritime Organization, the agency reported.

It said the visitor had written in a condolence book, “I, on behalf of the secretary general of the International Maritime Organization and our staff members, express the deepest condolences to all the Korean people and the government of the DPRK over the demise of the great leader Comrade Kim Jong-il, general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, chairman of the DPRK National Defense Commission and supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army.”
Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow