North Korea honours drowned sailors for saving Kims' pictures

Updated on Jan 22, 2010 02:52 PM IST

North Korea has posthumously honoured sailors for rescuing portraits of the former and current leader from their sinking ship even as they were drowning, Pyongyang's official media said on Friday.

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AFP | By, Seoul

North Korea has posthumously honoured sailors for rescuing portraits of the former and current leader from their sinking ship even as they were drowning, Pyongyang's official media said on Friday.

The cargo ship Jisong 5 sank in rough seas off Dalian in northeast China on November 17. The captain, engineer and three others died while 15 others were rescued.

The captain and the engineer were honoured as "labour heroes" and posthumously awarded "hammer and sickle gold medals" and other top decorations, said the ruling communist party daily Rodong Sinmun.

The three others who died were also awarded the medals while the 15 survivors were given lower-level decorations.

"The Jisong 5 crew members displayed the Songun (military-first policy) generation's sublime ideological spirit by protecting the revolutionary headquarters... even in high waves," Rodong said.

North Korean news media said in November crew members had taken the portraits to safety even while some were drowning.

Portraits of founding president Kim Il-Sung and current leader Kim Jong-Il are displayed in homes, offices and public buildings as part of an all-pervasive personality cult.

Kim Il-Sung died in 1994 but remains "perpetual" president inside his mausoleum.

Citizens can be severely punished for damaging the Kims' portraits, even accidentally. People who lined park benches with newspaper bearing the leaders' pictures have reportedly been penalised.

But protecting the images brings official praise.

In September 2007 news media reported that North Koreans even sacrificed their own children to save pictures of the two Kims during devastating floods the previous month.

One worker "firmly took portraits in his hands in a flood though his five-year-old daughter slipped down from his back," the media reported.

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