Kim Il Sung (April 15,1912 – July 8, 1994) was the supreme leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), for 46
years, from its establishment in 1948 until his death in 1994. Kim Il-sung was born near Pyongyang, Korea, and went on to
become a guerrilla fighter against the Japanese occupation. Kim also fought with the Soviet army during World War II and returned
to his home region to become premier of North Korea soon setting in motion the Korean War.
There are over 500 statues of Kim Il-sung in North Korea. Eternal life monuments have been erected throughout the country, each
dedicated to the departed "Eternal Leader."
Kim Il-sung's image is prominent in places associated with public transportation, hanging at every North Korean train station and
airport. It is also placed prominently at the border crossings between China and North Korea. In recent years, a progam has begun
to include statues of his son beside his father.
When visiting these sites, a visitor is expected to
show "respect" to the great leaders by purchasing a
bouquet of flowers (usually three to five dollars) and
then bowing before the monument.
There are also painting and art works everywhere to reflect the great leader interacting with citizens. The three successive family
leaders were brilliant. Where ever they went, they imparted their wisdom to the people. In this case, Kim Il Sung tells the farmers how
they can improve their yields. When you see films of Kim Il-sung or news coverage of the current leader, you will note that anyone
in their presence is busy taking notes.
In addition to giving advice, Kim Il Sung was said to have joined in with local farmers in their work.
At the flower show celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the Labor Park, the flower arrangements revolved around pictures of Kim Il
Sung and his son Kim Jong-il.
The most incredible monument to the two Kims is the Kim Il Sung Mausoleum. The palace was built in 1976 as the Kumsusan
Assembly Hall and served as Kim Il Sung's official residence. Following the elder Kim's death in 1994, Kim Jong-il had the building
renovated and transformed into his father's mausoleum. It is believed that the conversion cost at least $100 million. Some sources
put the figure as high as $900 million. Inside the palace, Kim Il-sung's embalmed body lies inside a clear glass sarcophagus. His
head rests on a Korean-style pillow and he is covered by the flag of the Workers' Party of Korea. Kim Jong il is now on display in a
room close to and very similar to his father's. In our view, the almost one billion dollar estimate seems quite reasonable.
Photography is not permitted inside the mausoleum. It was one of the most spectacular buildings that I have ever visited. We rode
escalators and moving sidewalks for almost a mile to the mausoleum. It was as lavish as any palace in Europe with huge marble
rooms. There were additional rooms with all the medals awarded the leaders as well as their lavish automobiles and railroad cars.
When visiting the mausoleum, one is
expected to dress smartly. Our guide Kim
Hyon Ok wore her traditional Korean dress.
I, too, obliged, wearing a tie for the first time in over 14 years!
In the DPRK, it is customary for a bride and groom to go and lay flowers in front of a statute of the great leaders, after the
wedding, as this couple was doing when we visited one of the statutes.
In the DPRK, all citizens of any consequence wear a pin with the picture or pictures of the great leader(s) wherever they go.