Kim Jong Il Death Watch: Birthday Edition

The AP’s newest report on Kim Jong Il’s health appears to add some confirmation to what Open Radio has reported recently — that Kim Jong Il’s is going through kidneys like Kennedys go through livers:

Depressed and chronically ill, Kim relies on rare, costly and sometimes outlawed remedies such as rhino’s horn and the bile of bear gall bladder, one South Korean official told The Associated Press. Another intelligence expert said North Koreans have gone twice to Beijing since 2008 to buy prized remedies, spending more than $610,000 on one shopping trip.

Both spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of matters involving the authoritarian North Korean leader.

Though noticeably gaunt, Kim appears active and even cheerful in photos distributed by state media. Dressed in a heavy parka, he has been shown in recent weeks guiding construction of a hotel, visiting a mine and even watching a dance performance.

However, Kim is undergoing kidney dialysis and suffers from depression, said Cheong Seong-chang, a senior analyst at the private Sejong Institute think tank outside Seoul, citing a “very credible” source. He declined to identify his source. [AP, Kwang-Tae Kim]

According to the report, His Withering Majesty’s minions have been sent to Beijing to buy “bear gall bladder, rhinoceros horn and musk” for him. Here, we can hope that this birthday will be his last. Openly.

Over the weekend, North Korea’s state news agency reported that 100,000 people attended a rally in the capital of Pyongyang as part of a tribute to Mr. Kim and the ruling Workers’ Party. It also said the government delivered “gifts of love” to the nation’s children as part of the birthday celebration. It didn’t offer details, but in the past children received cookies or sugar from the government. [….]

The birthday-related events show the regime is still able to flex its propaganda muscle and produce demonstrations of support, despite a recent internal backlash over a clampdown on market activities and confiscation of individuals’ money, as well as continued international pressure over its production of nuclear weapons. [Wall Street Journal, Evan Ramstad]

Marking his birthday, called the country’s February Holiday, synchronized swimmers, figure skaters and dancing art troupe visiting from Japan sang gloriously and longingly of Kim Jong-il as the invincible and kind-hearted leader, KCNA said.

“They performed on the ice-rink ‘Push Back the Frontiers of Science’, ‘Higher and Faster’, ‘Let Us Meet at the Front’ and other numbers reflecting the iron faith and will of the service personnel and people of the DPRK,” it said. [Reuters, Jack Kim]

This certainly must be a depressing development for plenty of North Koreans:

Floral tributes arrived from China, Japan, Laos, Russia and Syria, the Korean Central News Agency reported this month. The inclusion of a new breed of begonia delivered on the January 8 birthday of youngest son Kim Jong Un follows a pattern of using flowers to help legitimize the ruling family’s power, according to Paik Hak Soon, a director of inter-Korean relations at the Seongnam, South Korea-based Sejong Institute.

“North Korean leaders have used the flowers as a propaganda tool to glorify their leadership,” Paik said. “The flower is an obvious sign that Kim Jong Il is preparing a handover,” he said, adding that both Kim and his father Kim Il Sung, who founded the nation, have their own designated blossoms. [Sydney Morning Herald]

This year, however, the adulation is leavened with a striking concession of the regime’s fallibility, incompetence, and unpopularity. I think this quotation gets it about right in summarizing the political effects of The Great Confiscation:

“The public has linked the new hardships inflicted upon to the central government. This does not mean the government is about to collapse but conflict between the public and government will greatly increase,” said Park Hyeong-jung, an expert on the North at the South’s Korea Institute for National Unification.

More importantly it redefined the relationship between Kim and his people and served a warning that there is a limit to how hard he can push an already beaten-down public, he said. [Reuters, Jack Kim]

Related: Some North Koreans who no longer have to worship Kim Jong Il send birthday greetings to their homeland. Hat tip to a valued reader.


  1. does anyone know if they are using any sort of technology with the balloons?

    i mean, in the sense of the launchers actually being able to control where the balloon drops?

    i remember back in the day, they would have to wait for certain weather conditions (i’m sure they still do with the weather) and just let balloons go and hope for the best.

    but now, do they have any transmittable gps on it? is there a way to know where the balloons dropped?

    just curious. i’m a tech junkie. and it technology can help a way make sure those leaflets drop somewhere in pyongyang, that would be a blast.