North Korea announced yesterday that the body of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il will lie in state in perpetuity in a Pyongyang palace and memorial towers will be built nationwide, as part of plans to honor the late leader.
Kim died on Dec. 17 of a heart attack at the age of 69 after 17 years in charge of the nuclear-armed nation. His son Kim Jong-un has taken over the leadership.
The Workers’ Party of Korea, describing the late Kim as its “eternal leader,” announced that his body would lie in state at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace.
Kim’s corpse was on display at the palace before an elaborate funeral on Dec. 28. The embalmed body of his father, founding North Korean president Kim Il-sung, is on view to favored visitors at the building.
The party, in a report carried by the official news agency, announced plans for a statue to Kim Jong-il. It also said smiling portraits “and towers to his immortality” would be built nationwide.
His birthday on Feb. 16, “the greatest auspicious holiday of the nation,” would be named the “Day of the Shining Star,” according to a decision made by the political bureau of the party’s central committee.
The late Kims were the subject of a massive personality cult that bestowed near-godlike status on them. Kim Il-sung, whose birthday on April 15 is known as the “Day of the Sun,” was declared eternal president after his death in 1994.
The North is now burnishing the image of Kim Jong-un, who is in his late 20s.
It has declared him “supreme leader of party, army and people” and formally appointed him military chief. Troops held a rally on Monday outside the memorial palace to pledge loyalty to the new leader.
Paik Hak-soon, of Seoul’s Sejong Institute think tank, said that yesterday’s announcement indicated that Kim Jong-il’s body would be embalmed and put on display, just like his father. “It shows the absolute authority of the past leaders and is also aimed at boosting [Kim] Jong-un’s status as their -direct descendant,” he said.
Paik said the declaration of Feb. 16 as the nation’s greatest holiday had the same purpose — bolstering Kim Jong-un’s status as direct descendant and successor.
The analyst said the designation of the late Kim as “eternal leader of the party and the revolution” referred to the country’s overall socialist revolution, not the specific party institution, adding that Kim Jong-un would eventually take over as party chief.
The announcement gave few details on what kind of statue would commemorate Kim Jong-il.
A towering bronze statue of Kim Il-sung, unveiled in 1972 to mark his 60th birthday, is customarily the first stop for foreign visitors to Pyongyang. Tour groups or individuals are expected to lay flowers at its feet.