Giant rabbits and virgin blood: the krazy world of Kim Jong-il

Dec 19, 2011
Tim Edwards

Oddball North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il will be missed for his quirks if nothing else...

WHEN you've been surrounded by yes-men all your life, you're bound to suffer from a few quirks and delusions. Kim Jong-il, who died at the weekend, had his fair share, ranging from his status as a fashion icon to his habit of injecting himself with the blood of virgins.

1. Kim Jong-il is the biggest foodie in Asia or an incredibly fussy eater, depending on your point of view. Luxurious foods and drinks were brought to him from around the world by special couriers, according to the LA Times, which also described how Kim's rice must be cooked "over a wood fire using trees cut from Mount Baekdu. He has his own private source of spring water.

Female workers inspect each grain of rice to ensure that they meet the leader's standards."

2. In 2006, Kim Jong-il heard the story of Karl Szmolinsky, a German who breeds the world's largest rabbits. Kim reportedly decided that these oversized rodents were the answer to North Korea's regular famines. He ordered 12 of the 10kg German Grey Giant rabbits immediately and asked that Szmolinsky follow them later to set up a breeding programme. The following year, Szmolinksy received a call from a North Korean official explaining that his services would not be necessary. Szmolinksy believes that Kim ate the rabbits for his birthday.

3. When Kim Jong-il wanted to introduce new ideas to the moribund North Korean film industry in the late 1970s, he kidnapped "South Korea's Orson Welles", Shin Sang-ok, and imprisoned him for four years, during which time he was indoctrinated and fed on grass. Shin eventually made seven films for Kim Jong-il, then merely the heir-apparent to his father Kim il-Sung. But in 1986, according to The Guardian, Shin and his wife made a dash for freedom during a trip to Vienna, taking refuge in the American embassy.

4. Last year, North Korean media reported that Kim Jong-il was inspiring global trends in fashion with his trademark khaki suit. "The reason is that the august image of the Great General, who is always wearing the modest suit while working, leaves a deep impression on people's mind in the world," said Communist party newspaper Rodong Sinmun. An unidentified French fashion expert was quoted saying:  "Kim Jong-il mode which is now spreading expeditiously worldwide is something unprecedented in the world's history."

5. Kim Jong-il might well be one of the causes of global warming, if a story from the North Korean media is to be believed. On his birthday this year, the Korean Central News Agency revealed that willow trees in Kim's supposed birthplace on the slopes of Mount Baekdu had blossomed nine days earlier than normal and a solar halo had appeared over one of the peaks.

6. It is rumoured that Kim Jong-il used to have himself injected with the blood of virgins in an effort to stay young, reviving the practice carried out by Pope Innocent VIII in the 15th century.

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