Kim Jong-il: Legendary golfer and mythical powers even in death
North Korea's propaganda machine gave Kim Jong-il supernatural powers, creating a mystique around the leader. Next up: his son Kim Jong-un.
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A towering bronze statue of Kim Il Sung, his arm outstretched, lords over the capital city from atop Mansu Hill. In the days since Kim Jong Il's death, mourners have been streaming to the hill to lay flowers at the statue as they typically do for the leaders' birthdays and other major occasions.Skip to next paragraph
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Kim Il Sung's smiling face also beams from the face of major buildings, though his portrait at the Grand People's Study House in central Pyongyang was replaced this week by one of Kim Jong Il.
Portraits of the two late leaders feature prominently in every building in North Korea, father and son side by side or standing together in colorful portraits, murals and larger-than-life mosaics interspersed in every village and city across the country.
Some also portray Kim Jong Il's mother, Kim Jong Suk, considered the mother of North Korea.
Similar portraits of the next leader, Kim Jong Un, have not been revealed, though his name has begun appearing in recent months on plaques commemorating visits and offering blessings to all three leaders.
North Koreans are never far from their leaders: Most wear small lapel pins of one of the leader's faces on their left side, "close to our hearts," a government official said.
Most billboards in North Korea carry slogans, not advertisements, with the leaders' main messages. Recent slogans focus on construction and the economy, such as: "Everything in the name of improving the people's daily lives" — and tout the goal of building a "strong and prosperous nation." Pillars inscribed with "juche," the national philosophy of self-reliance, line country roads.
North Korea has only one state-run TV channel, which shows cartoons in the late afternoon, the news, and soap operas and films in the evening. Major national announcements — including the news of the deaths of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il — are made on state TV.
The Korean Central News Agency (http://www.kcna.kp) is the official news agency of the state while the Rodong Sinmun is the newspaper of the ruling Workers' Party. The leaders' names appear in a larger font than the rest of the text.
Kim Jong Un bears a startling resemblance to Kim Il Sung during his early years as leader. Some North Koreans say they were moved to tears after seeing Kim Jong Un for the first time last year because he so resembled his grandfather.
The Kims ruled North Korea under the title "suryong," or "leader," but are often referred to by other titles as well.
Kim Il Sung, who remains the nation's "eternal President," is also commonly called the "Great Leader."
Kim Jong Il was known as the "Dear Leader" until taking power; during his rule, he was called "Great Comrade," ''Supreme Commander" and often "Father."
Kim Jong Un was dubbed "Young General" after being made a four-star general in September 2010. He became "Respected General" in 2011, and was elevated to "Great Successor" after his father's death. North Korean state media this week have referred to him as "Outstanding Leader."
The Arirang "Mass Games" are a stunning spectacle of choreography and synchronicity involving 100,000 dancers tumbling and leaping in unison while students use placards to create a huge, cascading wall of images as a backdrop. The performance also is a key tool for broadcasting the North Korean leadership's main political and economic messages.
In 2010, a new section was added paying homage to ally China that featured somersaulting panda bears.
"Tramp, tramp, tramp! The footsteps of our General Kim!"
So go the lyrics of the song "Footsteps," released as the leadership began rolling out the succession campaign for Kim Jong Un — the first hint to the outside world that an heir had been chosen.
In October, young women in traditional Korean dresses and men in Western-style suits danced to the song, clapping their hands above their heads and stomping around the plaza in front of a huge hammer-and-sickle monument.
Another popular tune is the catchy "Song of CNC," an ode to digital technology, which Kim Jong Un is widely credited with pushing as part of North Korea's economic reform.
While North Koreans learn many of the same traditional Korean songs as children in the South — such as the popular folk tune "Arirang" — they have their own patriotic tunes, including "Song of Gen. Kim Jong Il," ''Glory to Our Great Party" and "We Live in the Embrace of the Leader."