Sunday, January 26, 2014

Where was born Kim Il-Sung?

Mangyongdae is the birthplaceof Kim Il-Sung.   This is what it looks like.

Image source Taedong Travel
But this is what it looks like to North Korean School children.

Image by Raymond Cunningham

The majestic conifers!  The candy-colored blossoms!  And all in bloom at the same time! An Eternal Spring for the dear leader.  On anniversaries of Kim Il-Sung's death, flowers are said to bloom out of season, just like the picture.  (But those white gates and pickets look strangely well, western.)

Kim Il-Sung even has his own flower, the Kimilsungia, a violet dendrobium cultivar that he took note of on a 1965 trip to Indonesia's Bogor Botanical Garden with his neighbor autocrat Sukarno.  Its origin is rated by Pyongyang as one of the Top 100 Important Events of the 20th Century:

He stopped before a particular flower, its stem stretching straight, its leaves spreading fair, giving a cool appearance, and its pink blossoms showing off their elegance and preciousness; he said the plant looked lovely, speaking highly of the success in raising it. Sukarno said that the plant had not yet been named, and that he would name it after Kim Il Sung. Kim Il Sung declined his offer, but Sukarno insisted earnestly that respected Kim Il Sung was entitled to such a great honour, for he had already performed great exploits for the benefit of mankind.

Kimilsungia festivals may be, by visitor attendance, the most visited flower shows in the world.

Image by Joseph A, Farriss III
Kimilsungia was joined by Kimjungilia, a bodacious red begonia created in 1988 by a Japanese botanist (neither plant can be said to be North Korean in any way) for Kim Jung-Il's 46th birthday.

The red flowers that are blossoming over our land
Are like hearts: full of love for the leader
Our hearts follow the young buds of Kimjongilia
Oh! The flower of our loyalty!

Floral displays mingle these impresa of the two leaders with...tanks and test missiles.

Image by Joseph A, Farriss III

"Someone in my group asked why the Kimilsungia was a smaller flower than the Kimjongilia, our North Korean guide simply said that that was not a wise question to ask." [americaninnorthkorea]

But I'm most fascinated by the miniature landscapes placed in North Korean schools along with those pastel-ized prints of the birthplace.  They personify the leader as much as his portrait,  placing him in pure and abundant and beautiful nature as a stage set for narrative and myth.

photo by Eric Lafforgue

"In a school in Pyongyang, the room dedicated to Kim Il Sung, the father of Kim Jong Il.
The teacher asked the kids "where was born Kim Il Sung?"
They all answer, loudly: "Kim Il Sung was born in Mangyongdae!"
In the center, the native house of Kim Il Sung."  [eric lafforgue]

The 'best' schools (the ones in which they allow Western tour groups) have three rooms, and three gardens.  One for Kim Il-Sung, and one for Kim Jung-Il, and one for Kim Jong-suk (first wife of Il-Sung, mother of Jung-Il).  The trinity of North Korea.  And these are their gardens of origin, their Gardens of Eden.

Photo by Raymond Cunningham

Photo by Raymond Cunningham

See the pointer?  "And here Kim Jong-Il gave his winter boots to another child.  And here Kim Jong-Suk washed Kim Il-Sung's socks and dried them in her bosom."

Garden-as-propaganda.

1 comment:

Catherine said...

What shall we suggest for the Kimjongunia? Maybe a plant that aggressively and provocatively flicks its seeds far beyond its own space.

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