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The North Korean government claims there is no cult of personality , but rather genuine hero worship. The personality cult surrounding Kim Il-sung is by far the most widespread among the people. The cult had its beginnings as early as , with the appearance of the first statues of Kim Il-sung. Hwang Jang-yop , the highest level North Korean defector , has said that the country is completely ruled by the sole ideology of the " Great Leader ". He further said that during the De-Stalinization period in the USSR , when Stalin's cult of personality was dismantled in , some North Korean students studying in the Soviet Union also began to criticize Kim Il-sung's growing personality cult and when they returned home they "were subject to intensive interrogation that lasted for months" and "Those found the least bit suspicious were killed in secret".
According to official biographies, Kim Il-sung came from a long lineage of leaders and official North Korean modern history focuses on his life and activities. Over the course of his life he was granted titles of esteem such as "Sun", "Great Chairman", "Heavenly Leader" and many others , as well as awards like the "Double Hero Gold Medal". All major publications newspapers, textbooks etc. North Korean children were taught in school that they were fed, clothed and nurtured in all aspects by the "grace of the Chairman". These rooms are well taken care of, are built of high quality materials, and have a model of his birthplace in Mangyongdae-guyok.
Kang Chol-hwan wrote of his childhood in North Korea:. To my childish eyes and to those of all my friends, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il were perfect beings, untarnished by any base human function. I was convinced, as we all were, that neither of them urinated or defecated. Who could imagine such things of gods? In his memoir, Kim Il-sung tells an anecdote involving his father and grandfather that gives the rationale for this sanitized presentation of North Korean leaders to their followers.
The memoir says that as a young pupil, Kim Il-sung's father was often sent to fetch wine for one of his teachers, who drank frequently, until one day his father saw the drunken teacher fall face-first into a ditch. This led to a confrontation in which the young pupil shamed the embarrassed teacher into giving up wine altogether. Kim Il-sung's grandfather draws the moral of this story:.
My grandfather's opinion was this: If pupils peep into their teacher's private life frequently, they lose their awe of him; the teacher must give his pupils the firm belief that their teacher neither eats nor urinates; only then can he maintain his authority at school; so a teacher should set up a screen and live behind it.
The magnitude of adulation often borders on fanaticism. His photograph is displayed ahead of the national flag and national emblem; the song of Marshal Kim Il-sung is played ahead of the national anthem; the best institution of higher learning is named after him; the highest party school is also named after him; and there are songs, poems, essays, stories, and even a flower named after him.
According to a speech by Kim Jong-il, Sukarno and the garden's director wanted to name the flower after Kim Il-sung.
Kim Il-sung declined, yet Sukarno insisted, "No. You have rendered enormous services to mankind, so you deserve a high honour. When Kim Il-sung died in , Kim Jong-il declared a national mourning period for three years. In the national constitution was changed to reflect this. In , the Juche Era dating system , which begins with the birth of Kim Il-sung April 15, as year 1, was introduced and replaced the Gregorian calendar. July 8, marked the 20th anniversary of Kim Il-sung's death. North Korean authorities declared a ten-day mourning period which ran from July 1 to July According to a resident of Hyesan , "Nowadays people are having a hard time Nevertheless, the resident said, "Nobody is complaining about it, maybe because ever since the purge of Jang Song-taek last year, if you picked a fight they'd just drag you away".
In keeping with the modern mythologies that pervade North Korea's version of history, which is seen as crucial to the cult of personality and political control,  it is alleged that Kim Jong-il was born on Mount Paektu at his father's secret base in his actual birth was in in the Soviet Union and that his birth was heralded by a swallow, caused winter to change to spring, a star to illuminate the sky, and a double rainbow spontaneously appeared.
These claims, like those surrounding his father, are apocryphal and continued throughout his life. Starting in the early s Kim Il-sung began to contemplate the succession question, albeit surreptitiously at first, but by Kim Jong-il was referred to as the "party center", or in connection with his father with references to "our great suryong supreme leader and the party center".
In , the first confirmation of Kim Jong-il's succession by name was published in a booklet which designated the younger Kim as the only heir to Kim Il-sung, that he was a loyal servant of his father and had inherited his father's virtues, and that all party members were to pledge their loyalty to Kim Jong-il.
They were also urged to support his absolute authority and to obey him unconditionally. Prior to , Kim Jong-il forbade the erection of statues of himself and discouraged portraits. They include a model of his birthplace. Between and , Jong-il accumulated no fewer than 54 titles , most of which had little to do or nothing at all with real political or military accomplishments since he never had any military training. Over the course of his life, the government issued numerous propaganda reports of the great accomplishments achieved by Kim Jong-il, such as that he could walk and talk before the age of six months.
To commemorate Kim Jong-il's 46th birthday, Japanese botanist Kamo Mototeru cultivated a new perennial begonia named " Kimjongilia " literally, "flower of Kim Jong-il". Similar to the mourning period of Kim Il-sung, individuals who did not follow the day mourning period regulations  or were thought to be insincere in their grief  were subject to punishment and in some cases may have been executed.
Several large-scale bronze statues have been erected alongside statues of Kim Il-sung.
They include a 5. Following his death, numerous commemorative stamps and coins were made and slogans have been carved on the sides of mountains in honor of his 70th birthday anniversary. Kim Jong-un , the grandson of North Korea's founder, was largely absent from the public and government service until the mids.
In he began being referred to as the "Young General" and by late as "Respected General". With the death of his father, state media began to refer to him as the "Great Successor. Kim Jong-un marks the third generation of Kim family dynastic leadership.
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According to Daily NK , people who criticized the succession were sent to re-education camps or otherwise punished and, after the mourning period of Kim Jong-il, government authorities began to increase their efforts on building the idolization of Kim Jong-un. In , the Workers' Party of Korea amended the Ten Principles for the Establishment of a Monolithic Ideological System , which in practice serves as the primary legal authority and framework of the country,   to demand "absolute obedience" to Kim Jong-un.
Kim Jong-un's uncle, Jang Sung-taek , was executed on December 12, His death was attributed, in part, to undermining the Kim family personality cult. In , at the end of the formal three-year mourning period for the death of Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un ordered the construction of new monuments to be built in every county of North Korea. Extensive renovations to the Kumsusan Memorial Palace have also been ordered. According to The Daily Telegraph , analysts "say the order to erect more statues to the Kim family will be a heavy financial burden on an economy that is already struggling due to years of chronic mismanagement and international sanctions".
The first monument to be at least partially dedicated to Kim Jong-un was announced in January Paektu and also includes monuments dedicated to Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. Additionally, stand alone "mosaic murals" of Kim Jong-un are being planned for major cities in each province. The personality cult extends to other members of the Kim family,  although to a lesser degree. However, these claims remain unsubstantiated and many historians outside of North Korea doubt their legitimacy. Kang Pan-sok , the mother of Kim Il-sung, was the first member of the Kim family to have a cult of personality of her own to supplement that of her son, from the late s onwards.
Kim Hyong-jik , the father of Kim Il-sung, is venerated by official North Korean historiographies for having been a prominent leader of the anti-colonial Korean independence movement. While in reality Kim was at one point briefly detained for anti-Japanese activities,  most outside scholars do not support claims of anything further.
Kim Hyong-gwon , paternal uncle of Kim Il-Sung and brother of Kim Hyong-jik, is honored in North Korea as an anti-Japanese activist because he skirmished with local police, for which he was arrested and later died on January 12, during internment in Seoul. There is a statue in his honor in Hongwon, the site of the skirmish. Kim Jong-suk , mother of Kim Jong-il, is described as "a revolutionary immortal" and "an anti-Japanese war hero [who] upheld the original idea and policy of Kim Il Sung and performed distinguished feats in the development of the movement for the women's emancipation in Korea.
Although she was first lady of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in the first year of its founding in , she died in , and starting in , in conjunction with her son Kim Jong-il's rise to position as the heir apparent, she was increasingly praised and her accomplishments memorialized throughout the nation.
A museum and statue was built in her home town in her honor and she was called an "indomitable Communist revolutionary" by Kim Sung-ae who was Kim Il-sung's then present wife, despite being largely ignored until this point. There is a wax replica of her in the International Friendship Exhibition. Familism is a type of collectivism in which the one is expected to prioritize the needs of the greater society or family over the needs of the individual. Thus, not only are the people expected to cherish their birth parents and treat them with all the respect demanded of traditional Confucian filial piety, but they must cherish and adore the ruling Kim family and the Mother Party even more so.
Familism in North Korea stems from a combination of the traditional East Asian Confucian value of filial piety , the communist system of collectivism, and the Kim cult of personality. As a traditional East Asian and Confucian value, the importance of family has come to resonate through all aspects of North Korean life, from politics to the economy to education and even to interpersonal relationships between friends and enemies.
When the Soviet Union first entered North Korea in to start its occupation, it had to start almost from scratch in establishing a communist base in the capital region of Pyongyang. However, by emphasizing family and a father-child relationship between the Soviet Union and Korea, and later between Kim Il-Sung and the North Korean people, Kim not only managed to apply Western Marxism to an Asian state, but also to secure his own personality cult, thereby constructing a sense of unquestioning loyalty toward him amongst the North Korean people when North Korea was at its most vulnerable to unwelcome western influences.
However, in the late s after the establishment of Juche as official North Korean ideology, through the cult of personality North Korea began to prominently focus the family ideology more on the North Korean nation itself, with Kim Il-Sung himself as the new pater familias.follow
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The cults of personality also promote the idea of the ruling Kims as a model family. In grief over the death of his second son, Kim Pyong-Il in , Kim Il-Sung returned to the very same spot a decade later with a Korean shaman to perform rituals to "assuage his loss and pain. After their deaths Kim dedicated monuments to his father and mother, respectively. Instead, Suh says that "his purpose, rather, seems to be more self-serving: an effort to build his own image as a pious Korean son from a revolutionary family. Another factor that makes North Korea unique is its notable emphasis also on the maternal aspect of leadership.
By , according to Victor Cha , there had been nearly 40, statues of Kim Il-sung erected throughout the country,  and with his death in the government began erecting 3, obelisks, called Towers of Eternal Life , in every town and city. There are legal requirements associated with photographing statues of the Kims including one that states visitors must photograph the entire statue, not just the head or any other individual part.
After the death of Kim Jong-il the government began to inscribe his name on each of the obelisks and build new statues in his image. Images of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il are prominent in places associated with public transportation, hanging at every North Korean train station and airport.
Nothing else may hang on that wall and they are given special cloths to clean the images daily.
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If dust is found, a fine has to be paid, its amount depending on the thickness of the layer. The portraits have to be hung high up, so that people in the room may not stand higher than them. Adult North Koreans are also required to wear a lapel pin that features their image on the left side, above their heart. There have been sporadic stories of people risking their lives to save the portraits from various disasters but few accounts have been verified. After his death it was converted into his mausoleum and then that of his son's. The overall estimated cost of maintaining the personality cult varies greatly between published sources.
In , a new holiday was announced to be celebrated on February 14, which commemorates the date that Kim Jong-il assumed the title "Generalissimo of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea". Between 60, and , gifts to Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il from foreign leaders, businesspersons and others are housed in the International Friendship Exhibition. When he visited North Korea in , he was impressed by the highly personal way that Kim ruled North Korea, launching the July Theses when he returned to Bucharest.
Over the past half-century, the North Korean system has promoted an image of not only Kim Il-sung, but also his family, as a nationalist cult. Kim Il-sung was not only descended and born of revolutionary leaders, but he married a revolutionary leader Kim Jong-suk and fathered a revolutionary leader Kim Jong-il.
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