Lakes crack and mountains glow as nature mourns Kim

Dec 22, 2011

State news agency claims that the natural world is grieving for Dear Leader

It's not just the people of North Korea who are grief-stricken by the death of Dear Leader Kim Jong-il, according to a press release from the imaginative state news agency KCNA titled 'Natural Wonders Observed'. Also upset are mountains, a lake - and at least one wading bird.

KCNA reports that the ice on high-altitude Lake Chon, on the border with China, cracked "with big noise" for "the first time" on December 17, just as the Dear Leader passed away. On Tuesday, the "holy mountain of revolution", Mount Baekdu, apparently grew bright with a "wide and thick glow" which lasted until 5pm exactly.

Later that night, says KCNA, a depressed bird was seen to fly three times around a statue of Kim Jong-il before landing on a nearby tree. "The crane stayed there for quite a long while with its head drooped,"
reports KCNA. Apparently pulling itself together, it made off in the direction of Pyongyang.

These bizarre claims are just the latest in a number of weird stories to emerge about the late dictator's death. Here are some of the others:

That's the question the late Dear Leader's inner circle are asking themselves. On his death in 1994, Kim Il-sung's body was embalmed - and it still lies in state, in a glass shrine in Pyongyang's Kumsusan Mausoleum.

Kim junior might seem a shoo-in for the same treatment, but some reports suggest otherwise. Il-sung's embalming was handled by the Russian specialists who look after Lenin's corpse: they reportedly came and went for a year ­ and this may be too expensive for today's North Korean regime.

On Tuesday, The Guardian reckoned he would have to settle for a more conventional burial and would not join ex-leaders like Lenin, Stalin and Chairman Mao in eternal, if suspiciously waxy-looking, repose.

As The Week online reported earlier, startling footage of hundreds of North Koreans apparently lost in overwhelming grief at the news of Kim Jong-il's death has divided commentators. The shots show people of all ages wailing, falling to their knees and pounding the ground with their fists.

Some observers think this is a sickening example of coercion ­ with the mourners faking their tears for fear of retribution by the authorities. Others believe that years of "totalitarian conditioning" have warped the minds of ordinary people so that their grief is spontaneous. Either way, the footage is disturbing.

It was perhaps inevitable: hours after the news of the death of brutal dictator Kim Jong-il, known to his subjects as the Dear Leader, Twitter hosted an outpouring of grief for 37-year-old rap artist Lil' Kim, known to her mother as Kimberley Jones. "Is this true??? Did LiL Kim DiE???" asked @djxaviermaxwell, before adding: "I'm here on twitter cuz if so this where the facts go 1st". collected 25 shocked and mournful messages. Lil' Kim is still very much alive.

According to the North Korean regime, Kim Jong-il died of a heart attack after 18 years as ruler on his private armoured train. "Great mental and physical strain" was the cause, brought on by a "high-intensity field inspection".
However, on Wednesday, it emerged that South Korea's intelligence chief does not believe that version. Won Sei Hoon claims that satellite photos show the train was stationary in Pyongyang at the time of his death.

Why would the North Koreans lie about this? There are two theories: either because foul play was involved after a power struggle behind the throne or, less dramatically, because it sounded better than saying he had died peacefully in bed.

Kim Jong-il was a ludicrous figure ­ and the lies and hubris of his regime are blackly comic. But after decades of misrule, the situation for ordinary North Koreans is deadly serious.

A World Food Programme (WFP) assessment last month found that North Korea improved its harvests this year ­ but still faces a food deficit of some 414,000 tons, The Guardian reported yesterday.

Sadly, Kim Jong-il's death may have worsened the situation: America has postponed a decision on food aid. Experts suspect the US hopes, in the light of his demise, to negotiate a new deal on nuclear proliferation - but the WFP and NGOs warned yesterday that North Koreans will start dying of malnutrition within months.

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