North Korea must be, at least at the time of writing these lines, one of the most unique countries in the world, in many respects. It certainly is the country which is still now guided by a very strict interpretation of an imported and adjusted ideology, by almost no flexibility or imagination, and for a large part dominated by a President, or Great Leader, who passed away in 1994. This is Marxism, but mixed with a great deal of idolation for a leader and his self-defined "Juche" ideology. Where Marx claimed that religion was the opium of the masses, the North Korean version his very ideology has been proclaimed religion, and Kim Il Sung its God. Indeed, although he died years ago, the constitution declared him President for eternity.
This religion does not require churches or cathedrals, temples or mosques, it does not demand synagogues or altars. This religion, instead, has constructed sites for worship in the way of gigantic statues, pictures of God which are impossible to escape or ignore, enormous museums and monuments which all praise the virtues ascribed to the late President. Together with the normal way of referring to a year, it has been decided that 1912, the birth year of the President, is year 1. All inhabitants of the country, even abroad, have a little pin on their chest, just where their heart is. A flower has been developed which is called Kimilsungia. But that is not all. Many of the monuments have a higher symbolism which is not directly visible. Most of them were erected on the occasion of a a decennial birthday of the Great Leader. In its construction, a reference to the leader was incorporated. For instance, the Monument to the Juche idea, a 150 metre high monster with a huge "flame" on top, was erected in the 70th birthday of the President. It has two sides with 17 stories, and two with 18, which added together make .... 70. The amount of bricks used in it, equals 25,550, which is the number of days the President lived until his 70th birthday. Similarly, the stone monument commemorating the last words the President wrote on the reunification of the country, has a base of 9.4 metres and a top of 7.7. These figures might seem absolutely random, but not to someone who knows that they were written on July 7, '94.
These are just a few examples of the religion-like admiration of the late leader. As far as I can think of, absolute worshipping on such a ferverish scale has never been shown by any other leader before, during so many years, on such a great scale. Whatever you may think of the man, there are very few, if any, people who can claim to have created and maintained such a person cult with so much seemingly unopposed might, even after death.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Pyongyang Monuments (North Korea). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Pyongyang Monuments.
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