Park Hyun Min
The North Korean authorities have been expanding the construction of facilities that laud and idolize Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il throughout North Korea, in order to unite the people in spite of the severe economic crisis.
Up until the end of the 1990s, North Korea had been focusing on creating “revolutionary memorial halls” or ‘historic sites,’ or erecting statues in order to idolize the Kim family.
The main structure of idolatry, above all, is the Kim Il Sung statue. Among all the statues, the one in front of the Museum of Korean Revolution on the top of Mansudae hill in Pyongyang, erected in April 1972 to celebrate Kim Il Sung’s 60th birthday, is best-known. It is 23 meters (75.5 feet) high, including a 3 meter pedestal. The statue was once covered with gold, but it was removed.
Similar, less grandiose statues are located in all 70 major cities of North Korea. In total, there are 140,000 structures designed to idolize the Kim regime.
Especially after the death of Kim Il Sung, and the succession of Kim Jong Il three years later, in 1997, many mosaic murals were created throughout North Korea with the father and the son as the theme, and many of the revolutionary monuments were erected.
Mosaic murals mainly feature Kim Il Sung, the father with Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Il’s mother, Kim Jung Sook, made with glass or tiles of natural rocks baked at 1,200.
According to reports from the North Korean state-run media since 2000, one mural was made in 2000, four in 2002, then the number increased to 19 in 2003, 49 in 2004, and a sharp increase to 70 in 2005. Then in 2006, 55 murals were made while 67 were made last year. 88 murals have been made this year alone.
Furthermore, the size of the mosaic murals is growing. On average, the length and height of a mural is 5–10 meters. However, bigger murals with dimensions of 30 meters by 20 meters have been under construction.
The most well-known murals are located on Tongil (Unification) Street in Raknang district and on Kwangbok Street in Mankyungdae district in Pyongyang. The one on Kwangbok Street was made to celebrate Kim Sung Il’s 95th birthday in April, 2008, and goes by the name of “My great country, my nation, live forever.” The height and length of the murals are respectively 42 meters and 25 meters.
The other mural that was completed on Tongil Street the day before that was 33.7 meters long and 22 meters high.
Chosun Sinbo reported with great fanfare, “These murals are the biggest mosaic murals in the nation.”
Revolutionary monuments or historic memorials at places where Kim Il Sung or Kim Jong Il are known to have been, are being made constantly.
North Korea put up 31 revolutionary memorial slabs last year in places such as Pyongyang Music School or Pyongyang Shoe Factory, and 37 so far this year, in places like Suncheon First Middle School and Kangkye Pig Factory. Last year, revolutionary monuments were erected in five places, including the public building of the People’s Safety Agency in North Hamkyung Province and so far four monuments have been erected in places like Pyongyang 3.26 cable factory.
Jane Portal, the author of “Art under Control in North Korea” visited North Korea twice and assessed this idolatry as the world’s most intense, saying that Stalin and Mao Zedong’s idolatry cannot be compared with Kim Il Sung’s hunger for praise.
Additionally, North Korea is focusing on boosting people’s loyalty and revolutionary consciousness through collective visits to these historic sites, and by excavating or renovating them.
Chosun (North Korea) Central Broadcasting (the state-controlled radio station) last month hinted at the strengthened idolization process, saying that “Plans to revive historic sites in North Hamkyung province and the efforts of party members and laborers working on these projects are processing well.”