While a ‘Cult of Personality’ can be attached to many of the world’s leaders throughout history, it seems to be best attached to the Kim dynasty of North Korea. What exactly is a ‘Cult of Personality,’ you might be asking? Well, my little sippers, this takes place when a figure uses tools such as propaganda to fabricate a heroic image, worthy of worship… kind of like what the ol’ Sip Advisor does to be viewed as the coolest liquor baron on the internet… successfully, I might add! Let’s take a look at how each North Korean leader (ahem, dictator) since Kim Il-sung has accentuated their legacy:
Viewed as a god and creator of the world, statues of Il-sung began going up around North Korea just one year into his reign, totaling over 40,000 at the time of his death. Attaching the terms ‘Great Leader’ and ‘Supreme Leader’ to Il-sung became regular practice in 1967, after his son Kim Jong-il began working with the state propaganda and information department.
Il-sung has been solely credited with defeating the Japanese and ending their occupation of Korea, despite aid from other forces. Among the accolades Il-sung received, was a ‘Double Hero Gold Medal,’ which obviously overshadows the Sip Advisor’s recent ‘Single Hero Gold Medal’ presentation. Any praise from fellow leaders was over-dramatized to make Il-sung look well-respected by the international community.
In many schools, a separate room – known as The Kim Il-sung Research Institute – was constructed specifically for lectures about Il-sung. Newspapers, textbooks and other periodicals included messages and instructions from Il-sung, while buildings were plastered with an image of Il-sung in proportion to the size of the structure. Il-Sung’s birthplace was viewed as a pilgrimage site and perhaps most diabolically, there is a flower named after the dictator. Yes, the Kimilsungia actually exists.
Upon Il-sung’s death, Jong-il set the mourning period for three whole years. This meant folks weren’t allowed to drink (among other requirements) and were punished if caught breaking the code of conduct. This would not have bode well for the Sip Advisor. Jong-il even moved the start of time up to his father’s birth on April 15, 1912. That means, according to the Kim dynasty, the existence of humans is only 103 years old (there is no zero year).
If you thought Kim Il-sung was bad, just wait and see what his son got up to. While Jong-il was actually born in 1941 in the Soviet Union, history has been rewritten so that Jong-il’s birth took place in his father’s secret base on Mount Paektu in 1942 (because that extra year of youth made Jong-il that much more bad ass) and the whole event caused the seasons to change from winter to spring, a star to shine brightly in the sky and the fabled double rainbow to appear.
Following in the footsteps of his dear ol’ dad, Jong-il was viewed as the son of a god or ‘Sun of the Nation.’ Followers believed that Jong-il had the ability to control the weather based on his mood and since he always looked glum or angry, I guess Koreans were in for a routinely inclement climate. Like his father before him, Jong-il also had “research institutes” built at schools for teachings about himself. About 40,000 of these rooms exist across the country for the legacy of father and son. Jong-il also had a flower created in his name: the Kimjongilia.
Among the outlandish achievements attributed to Jong-il were that he could walk and talk before he was half a year old and that his fashion sense was sweeping across the globe, which would be pretty spectacular since I always saw the guy wearing military outfits. During Jong-il’s time at the helm, approximately 300 articles each month were written by the country’s two major newspapers, furthering the ‘Cult of Kim’… and we don’t mean Kardashian.
Showing Jong-il’s power, even in death, it was reported that masses of ice exploded on Mount Paektu and a snowstorm touched down in the area upon the leader’s passing. The typical 100 days of mourning followed and while many were spotted publicly grieving, those who failed to show sadness met with serious repercussions, including death.
The current leader of North Korea came into the public eye in 2010, when he was referred to as the ‘Young General’ and later ‘Respected General,’ all achieved despite no military training whatsoever. Efforts to build the new dictator’s personality cult have included various forms of propaganda and his similar physical appearance to his grandfather has helped.
A 560-meter long sign, visible from space, saying “Long Live General Kim Jong-un, the Shining Sun!” was built after Jong-un’s succession. In a scene right out of The Lion King, Jong-un even had his own uncle executed to help build up his own profile.
The Rest of the Clan
Kim Hyong-jik, the father of Kim Il-sung has been described by propagandists as the leader of the Korean independence and anti-Japanese movement in his time, while Il-sung’s mom, Kang Pan-sok, has been called the ‘Mother of Korea.’ Both claims are disputed by most historians.
Kim Jong-il’s mother, Kim Jong-suk has been memorialized in wax, as a figure of the International Friendship Exhibition (which also houses hundreds of thousands of gifts from foreign leaders, given to the Kims, showing their reverence outside the country’s borders). She is also promoted as a revolutionary, a war hero, and a leader in the emancipation of women in Korea. All this, despite being unnoticed prior to her death and Il’sung’s rise to power.
By law, pictures of statues that feature any of the Kims must include the entire bust and cannot be cropped in anyway. It is also customary during certain holidays to bring flowers or other gifts when visiting the effigies and present them to the sculptures.
If you plan on living in North Korea, make sure you erect a photo of each of the deceased leaders, as it is a requirement of the law. Additionally, the wall you use for the portraits must otherwise remain bare and you will be required to clean the pictures daily with specialized wipes. The photos of the former dictators will follow you everywhere if you’re a citizen of the country, as you are required to wear a pin above you heart when out and about. Lastly, photos in newspapers of the Kim family are no to be thrown away, but instead they are to be collected and returned… probably so someone else can throw them away.
I suppose Valentine’s Day isn’t big in North Korea, as that’s the date they celebrate Kim Jong-il’s ascension to ‘Generalissimo of the Democratic Republic of Korea.’ Also unlike Valentine’s Day and other holidays, these events are mandatory to attend and include parades, sports, and dances. On the birthdays of Kim family members, the state media will show films about the respective figure and citizens are not allowed to talk during the broadcast or fall asleep until the airing is over.
Korea: Lotus Flower
- 1.5 oz of Soju
- Top with Pineapple Juice
- Splash of Lemon Juice
- Dash of Simple Syrup
- Dash of Honey
- Garnish with Lemon Wheel
Ironically, I unknowingly wrote this article on the 20th anniversary of Kim Il-sung’s death. I feel this is a fitting tribute to the entire dynasty’s legacy… otherwise known as: if anything bad happens to the Sip Advisor, the Koreans did it!
Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4.5 Sips out of 5):
This may be my favourite Pineapple Juice cocktail of all time. Despite the full shot of Soju, this martini was quite light and the Pineapple and Lemon Juices were allowed to flourish while you get your buzz on. You’re supposed to use Agave Nectar, but I chose to combine Simple Syrup and Honey instead and it was a great sweetener combo.