North Korea celebrates Kim Jong Il’s 69th/70th birthday

After another banner year of repression, isolation and international provocation, Dear Leader celebrates his birthday today.  According to the official account, he was born in 1942 at his father’s guerrilla base on North Korea’s highest mountain with a double rainbow and a bright star shining overhead. According to more prosaic Soviet accounts he was actually ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images
JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images
JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images

After another banner year of repression, isolation and international provocation, Dear Leader celebrates his birthday today.  According to the official account, he was born in 1942 at his father's guerrilla base on North Korea's highest mountain with a double rainbow and a bright star shining overhead. According to more prosaic Soviet accounts he was actually born in 1941 in Siberia where Kim Il Sung was staying in exile. 

The official celebrations include "artistic performances, a film show, a synchronised swimming performance and a festival of Kimjongilia -- a hybrid begonia." North Koreans might have preferred the traditional rice handouts that have often preceded the leader's birthday, though reports say those have been cut back this year due to shortages. North Korea's official news agency also reported a "solar halo" had formed over Dear Leader's birthplace. 

South Korean activists celebrated the day by firing leaflets over the border -- with government approval for the first time -- proclaiming North Korea a "Republic of the fat".

After another banner year of repression, isolation and international provocation, Dear Leader celebrates his birthday today.  According to the official account, he was born in 1942 at his father’s guerrilla base on North Korea’s highest mountain with a double rainbow and a bright star shining overhead. According to more prosaic Soviet accounts he was actually born in 1941 in Siberia where Kim Il Sung was staying in exile. 

The official celebrations include "artistic performances, a film show, a synchronised swimming performance and a festival of Kimjongilia — a hybrid begonia." North Koreans might have preferred the traditional rice handouts that have often preceded the leader’s birthday, though reports say those have been cut back this year due to shortages. North Korea’s official news agency also reported a "solar halo" had formed over Dear Leader’s birthplace. 

South Korean activists celebrated the day by firing leaflets over the border — with government approval for the first time — proclaiming North Korea a "Republic of the fat".

There’s some political news as well. Heir apparent Kim Jong Un was named vice chairman of the defense commission, which is chaired by his father. The move is the latest in a series of promotions meant to pave the way for succession. 

Kim Jong Il’s second son, Kim Jong Chol, made headlines of a different kind when he was spotted recently at an Eric Clapton concert in Singapore. Kim Jong Chol was already known to be a huge Slowhand fan. According to a 2007 WikiLeaks cable, North Korean officials, at his urging, asked U.S. negotiators about the possibility of setting up a concert by the British guitarist in Pyongyang. Clapton has received a number of offers from the North Korean government to play there. 

By Kim family standards, Chol’s public appearance wasn’t really all that embarrassing. 

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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