Korea – Lotus Flower

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

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:

Kim Il-sung

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

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).

Kim Jong-il

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.

Jong-il

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.

Kim Jong-un

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.

Jong-un

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.

No Rights

Other Notes

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

Lotus Flower Martini

  • 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.

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Korea – Sassy Sojurita

Where to Begin

While I prefer to choose a single topic to cover when posting about most of the countries we’ve visited, Korea (particularly South Korea) had so many blow-my-mind facts about it that I just had to compile a number of them rather than delve into individual items. So, let’s take a peek behind the Korean curtain and see which goodies we can find:

Major communication companies Samsung and LG are based out of Korea and because of this, new phone technology is often released in the country first. Around 98% of Koreans own mobile devices and use them for everything from phone calls to watching live TV to online shopping. Despite Samsung and LG calling Korea home, mobile devices are expensive there, although users are still likely to regularly replace their phones with updated versions.

Samsung Funny

Online gaming is huge in Korea, where players can make some serious cash and become celebrities. Gaming sessions are even broadcast on TV, with the most popular titles including Starcraft, World of Warcraft, League of Legends, and Lineage. Gaming parlours have opened up around the country, where men, women, and children can visit for gaming fun across a local network. On the negative side, internet and gaming addiction in particular is common and there has even been a few cases of people dying due to marathon gaming sessions.

Koreans don’t shy away from using credit cards, making dramatically more purchases per person, each year, using plastic. Have you ever been somewhere that didn’t accept credit? That’s illegal in Korea. Similarly, every cab has a card reader in it, so no more having to be driven to a bank machine just to pay your fare… take that Tacoma, Washington!

While Koreans work exceptionally hard (an average of 44.6 hours per week), they are also known for their drinking culture. In fact, if someone doesn’t join in on the evening out, getting blitzed on Soju, they are committing a major faux pas and party foul all at once. Drinking games are popular while out on the town. Jinro Soju has consistently been the world’s most sold spirit with an estimated 61 million-plus cases sold in 2011, dwarfing the worldwide sales of Smirnoff Vodka, the number two most popular liquor worldwide, which sold a mere 24 million-plus cases. Pretty epic given most sales for Jinro come domestically.

Soju 30 Shots

Korean golfers are increasingly becoming top stars of the sport, particularly on the women’s side of the ledger. As of July 2014, of the top 50 female golfers, 19 are Korean, including three in the top 10.  At 14 years old, Lydia Ko (born in Korea, but grew up in New Zealand) became the youngest to ever win a professional tournament when she emerged victorious at the Samsung Women’s Open in 2012.

Cartoons such as The Simpsons, Futurama, Family Guy, and King of the Hill have all had their basic animation, in-betweening, and colouring performed in Korea. As for domestic releases, Pororo the Little Penguin is wildly popular, even being given the nickname President Pororo. The flightless bird is so popular that it has a section of a theme park dedicated to it, thousands of products emblazoned with its likeness and will earn millions of dollars for the company that created it.

Korea is the birthplace of the martial art, Taekwondo, which was developed by the South Korean military. Taekwondo’s philosophy includes five tenets: courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, and indomitable spirit. South Korea has been awarded the most Olympic medals in the sport with 10 gold, two silver, and two bronze for 14 total. China, the United States, and Chinese Taipei are tied for second most with eight.

World Taekwondo Federation

In Korea, men are just as likely to use cosmetics as their female counterparts, spending about $900 million each year on foundation, makeup, and skincare products. Korean males make up a quarter of the international men’s cosmetics market. In a similar vein, the men of Korea are more likely to have plastic surgery than other parts of the world and that may be partly because it is much cheaper in Korea, causing folks from nearby countries to flock to the republic.

Korea’s music industry is highlighted by pop songs, known as K-Pop, which groups feature mostly young performers. A number of the bands have weird names that combine numbers and letters, including TVXQ, 2PM, B1A4, EXO, 2AM, CNBLUE, MBLAQ, SS501, 2NE1, and GOT7. 2PM and 2AM are rival groups and routinely settle their differences Gangnam Style (also a Korean export).

Sticking with the country’s entertainment industries, the Korean film industry has been dubbed Hallyuwood (using the term Hallyu, which describes the Korean Wave of popular culture being exported from the country, along with the ‘wood’ of Hollywood) and is best known for mini-series dramas. They even had a show called Full House, but I don’t think you’d find the Tanner clan in it.

Korea: Sassy Sojurita

Sassy Sojurita Cocktail

  • 2.5 oz Soju
  • 0.5 oz Pisco
  • 0.5 oz Triple Sec
  • Splash of Lime Juice
  • Garnish with an Orange Wedge

I never knew that there was this much neat stuff going on in Korea… and now I want a slice of the action! My night will start with an epic Soju binge (after an exhausting day at work, of course) and then it’s off to the video game parlour for a marathon of online action before practicing some bedroom taekwondo with Mrs. Sip and then repeating it all over again the next day!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
Finding Soju recipes isn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever done, but I was able to track down a couple which were usually adaptations of classic cocktails, simply subbing in Soju for the traditional spirit. I really liked the addition of Pisco to this margarita-style drink and that inclusion likely bumped this libation up half a point. Mrs. Sip bought me this bottle of Soju and ironically, it is in fact from the Jinro company, even before I had heard of it.