North Korea celebrates leader’s birthday unaware of his son Kim Jong Nam’s murder
North Koreans marked the birthday of late Kim Jong Il on Thursday with dancing, special treats for children and reverential bows and bouquets of flowers before bronze statues, unaware of the reports that the leader’s eldest son — and present ruler Kim Jong Un’s half brother — was killed just days ago.Updated: Feb 16, 2017 14:30 IST
North Koreans marked the birthday of late Kim Jong Il on Thursday with dancing, special treats for children and reverential bows and bouquets of flowers before bronze statues, unaware of the reports that the leader’s eldest son — and present ruler Kim Jong Un’s half brother — was killed just days ago.
There has been no mention of Kim Jong Nam’s death at the Kuala Lumpur airport in the North’s official media.
In fact, Kim Jong Nam, who lived most of the past decade in exile away from the North, may as well have never existed as far as most North Koreans are concerned. Few have access to outside media sources and reports here are generally limited to the ruling line of Kims.
Other members of the family tree — especially problematic ones like Kim Jong Nam, who once suggested the North should do away with its hereditary succession — are rarely if ever mentioned.
On the surface, at least, normalcy was the word of the day.
North Korea’s state media said Kim Jong Un paid his customary respects overnight at a palatial mausoleum in Pyongyang. He also reportedly attended a large meeting on Wednesday.
North Koreans across the country, meanwhile, observed as normal the “Day of the Shining Star,” Kim Jong Il’s birthday and the second-most important holiday of the year. National founder and “eternal president” Kim Il Sung’s birthday in April — the “Day of the Sun” — is the most important.
In central Pyongyang, from early morning thousands of people climbed Mansu Hill to lay flowers and bow below giant statues of Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung. North Koreans are expected to make a show of respect to their leaders on all major holidays and anniversaries and authorities are ensuring that Kim Jong Il’s birthday is being celebrated in traditional fashion.
One aspect of that is the annual flower show featuring thousands of blossoms named Kimjongilia after the past leader. The Kimjongilia flower is a kind of begonia, originally bred by a Japanese botanist, according to North Korean authorities.
Apart from the rituals, it is also a public holiday. People can expect presents of cooking oil or other food and drink from their employers, and they get time off to spend with their families.
On Thursday, Pyongyang residents also took part in large public dances, filed through displays of ice sculptures.
The finale of the day was to be a fireworks show.
First Published: Feb 16, 2017 14:29 IST