5 Weird Facts About Kim Jong II
Kim Jong II may have been a brutal, totalitarian dictator, but none of his contemporaries could approach him in terms of sheer strangeness. (Well, maybe Gaddafi.) But Jong II was in a league of his own in terms of weird. As North Korea buries its Dear Leader, here's a few odd things that made the late Kim Jong Il who he was.
Being short is actually pretty common among many dictators, who make up for their vertical shortcomings with their fun human rights violations. Stalin was 5'4 and put padded soles in his shoes to grow a few extra inches. Being Stalin's number one fanboy, Kim Jong II came to the same conclusion. Wearing platform shoes was a huge success for the Dear Leader, in that it allowed him to stand almost as tall as the 5'7 Vladimir Putin.
North Korean songwriters have very little material to choose from. A few government-approved topics include glorifying the state and the socialist idea of Juche (self-reliance), the Korean People's Army and....that's about it. Well, except the main source of inspiration, the Kim family. In his day, Kim Il Sung had several songs written about him (even karaoke standards), the most famous being the 'Song of General Kim Il Sung', whistled by his soldiers during the Korean War. Not to be outdone, Kim Jong II had a song written for him titled 'The Song of General Kim Jong II'. And pretty soon you'll no doubt be able to download the 'Song of General Kim Jong Un' to your Ipod. (Listen to 'The Song of General Kim Jong II' on the left.)
Fact and fantasy have long been blurred in North Korea, but according to official state media, Kim Jong II was born on Mount Paektu, which is where the ancient Korean kingdom was originally founded. Jong II must have been born twice, because historical research has concluded he was born in the Soviet village of Vyatskoye, while Daddy Kim was on the run from the Japanese during World War II. In a few years time, North Korea state media will probably reverse themselves, saying how Kim Jong II died on Mount Paektu while battling his enemies atop a dragon.
Kim Jong Il's brood consists of three sons and one daughter from two different women. The youngest, Kim Jong Un, christened 'Brilliant Comrade' by state media, is expected to become Supreme Leader. However, the eldest son, Kim Jong Nam, long ago botched his chances to become dictator when he attempted to visit Tokyo Disneyland in 2001 and was detained by authorities. Kim Jong II had to cancel a visit to China and come to his son's rescue, much to his dismay. The second oldest, Kim Jong Chul, is rumored to be gay, which was intolerable for the Dear Leader. We can only imagine what Chuseok (the Korean autumn harvest festival) is like at the Jong household.
North Korean filmmakers are as constrained as their songwriting counterparts. Dissatisfied with films about the Korean War, Army life, Communism and himself, Kim Jong II wanted something different in the vein of Godzilla. And to do so, he kidnapped the South Korean director Shin San-ok and forced him to make a film about the legendary Korean monster Pulgasari, a doll that grows larger and larger whenever it comes in contact with blood. Set in the ancient Korean kingdom, Pulgasari has no tanks and helicopters to smash, but rampages through rice fields and stone forts instead. While infamous for its strangeness, not all reviews were bad. Kenpachiro Satsuma, the stuntman who portrayed Godzilla in several films as well as 'Pulgasari,' said he preferred Kim Jong Il's rip off to Roland Emmerich's 1998 'Godzilla' remake. (Watch the trailer for 'Pulgasari' on the left.)