"Rocket man" Kim Jong-il immortalized in North Korea

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 12, 2012 1:14 AM
"Rocket man" Kim Jong-il immortalized in North Korea

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea declared February 16 the "Day of the Shining Star" to commemorate the birthday of late "Great Leader" Kim Jong-il, using the same name as a long-range rocket developed under his trademark songun, or military first, policy.

During his 17-year reign, Kim oversaw major developments in the North's military -- mainly a nuclear weapons program and work toward building a long-range ballistic missile.

The secretive state also announced Kim's body will lie in state permanently at the same mausoleum housing his father's embalmed body.

"The great leader Comrade Kim Jong-il will be laid in state at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace, the sacred temple of Juche," state media quoted a declaration by the ruling party. Juche is the North's homegrown official ideology that fuses Marxism, an extreme concept of nationalism and economic self-sufficiency.

It said Kim Jong-il had been named as the "eternal leader of the party." His father, the North's founder Kim Il-sung is referred to as the country's "eternal president."

The North will also erect Kim's statue and portraits and build towers across the country in what could be an attempt to strengthen his personality cult and help the dynastic succession of his son, Kim Jong-un.

Giant portraits and statues of Kim Il-sung already exist in cities, towns and villages across North Korea. There are believed to be more than 3,000 so-called "eternal life towers" dedicated to Kim Il-sung's godly status.

North Korea already marks April 15 as the country's greatest celebration, the anniversary of Kim Il-sung's birth, with musical performances, a nationwide festival of flowers named after him and discussion of his exploits.

His son died of a heart attack on December 17, the North's state media said. A state funeral and a commemorative event capped 10 days of mourning and his son, Jong-un, believed to be 28, is hailed as the "great successor" who will carry on the revolution.

(Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Jeremy Laurence and Paul Tait)