As with many things North Korean over the years, there is great speculation now on what comes next for the Hermit Kingdom after the sudden death of their leader Kim Jong-Il. It is akin to reading tealeaves.
What will the rule of Kim Jong-Un look like? Will the late 20-something dynastic heir, apparently chosen over his half-siblings for his resemblance to his late grandfather, North Korea’s founder Kim Il-Sung, follow his father and grandfather’s footsteps and become a lone dictator? Or will he share power?
According to a “high-level” source a Beijing-based Reuters reporter has nursed over the years, North Korea is headed towards a shift from “strongman dictatorship” to “collective rule.”
Reuters said that their source, who has reported close ties to Pyongyang and Beijing, claims that the North Korean army is fully behind the youngest Kim who has already been anointed by the state media as “the Great Successor.” They will apparently share power with Kim’s influential uncle, Jang Son-Thaek. If true this will be the first time since North Korea’s founding in 1948 that a group of people will govern the country.
Meanwhile as Kim Jong-Il’s body lays in state in his father’s mausoleum atop a bed of Kimjongilia’s – a flower named after the departed dictator – many are wondering whether the “Dear Leader” will join the “Great Leader” Kim Il-Sung in eternal embalmment.
Beginning with Lenin’s body in 1924, the prominent figures of world communism – Stalin, Ho Chi-Minh, the elder Kim – have enjoyed the honor of being forever present. Sometimes, it seems, against their own wishes. China’s Mao Zedong allegedly wanted to be cremated but lo and behold his preserved body now greets throngs of tourists everyday.
There are varying reports speculating whether Kim Jong-il will be buried or embalmed.
The UK newspaper The Guardian is reporting that the impoverished nation, where an estimated one quarter of their citizens are at risk of starvation, might not be able to afford two mummified leaders on display and so Jong-il might be buried instead.
After Kim Il-Sung died in 1994, his body was handed over to Russian embalmers who took almost a full year to prep to it to a reported tune of $1 million. It apparently costs hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for upkeep.
The Guardian also reports that ordinary North Koreans are not even aware the pickling procedure took place and they believe, through the power of propaganda, that their founding father’s body is preserved by a miracle.
Both father and son ruled by cult of personality and Reuters reports that the country is likely to spend the money for the embalmment procedure.
“It’s all about idolizing (the Kim family). They keep their bodies preserved to keep the regime intact,” former North Korean Ambassador to Thailand and now defector Hong Soon-kyung told Reuters.
Meanwhile just immediately south of the 39th Parallel and the Demilitarized Zone that demarks the North from the South, a group of South Korean activists and defectors – in the presence of a crush of journalists – launched giants balloons filled with propaganda leaflets across the border.
It is a tactic often employed by activist groups in the South and it infuriates the North, which calls it propaganda warfare.
This latest of batch of leaflets, emblazoned with the images of the Kim Jong-Il and his “Great Successor” son criticize the hereditary secession of power.
Despite all the speculation, this much is known: Kim Jong-il’s funeral will take place on December 28 and his final resting place will be next to his father in the Kumsusan Memorial Palace.