SEOUL — Kim Jong Il is about to go on display as promised, making him the latest authoritarian leader to achieve a certain kind of posthumous immortality.
Kim’s embalmed body will be shown alongside that of his father, North Korea founder Kim Il Sung, at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang, a China-based tourist company that leads ventures into the communist country announced Wednesday.
“This is a fairly big announcement and will affect all tours from 2013, particularly (those on) our January budget tour, who are likely to (be) some of the first foreigners to see this,” the post on the Young Pioneer Tours website said.
“Our February Kim Jong Il birthday tour … will obviously now be a massive tour, not to be missed,” it said.
Soon after the middle man in North Korea’s three-generation leadership succession died last December, North Korea officials announced that his body would eventually join his father’s on public display.
Korean media outlets reported that a dream team of Moscow-based embalmers — who usually tend to the body of Russian Marxist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin on view in Moscow’s Red Square — were dispatched to North Korea to prepare Kim’s body.
Hwang Kyusung, dean of the Funeral Science Department at the Eulji University in Sungnam, told Stars and Stripes earlier this year that preserving a body for display is an involved process, with a variety of chemicals and solutions used to control the smell and discoloration that come with decomposition.
Yoo Chan-yul, a political science and diplomacy professor at the Duksung Women’s University in Seoul, said putting the late Kim on display next to his father will not only serve to boost tourism.
North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong Un, is “vulnerable,” given his youth and inexperience, so keeping the bodies of his father and grandfather around “will help stabilize the system and justify the succession of power to a third generation,” Yoo said.
Kim Jong Il becomes the latest of at least a half-dozen world leaders whose bodies have been kept around for political and/or tourism-related reasons. Others include Chinese leader MaoZedong, North Vietnam President Ho Chi Minh and one-time Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos.