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Stranger than Fiction

A man apart - Kim Jong-ilThe other day, in an idle moment, I wrote a blog about “The not so dearly departed of 2011“. It was all tongue-in-cheek, facetious nonsense and perhaps not so funny. I’m not a professional comedy writer after all.

Then, hours later, Kim Jong-il died, a man for whom any obituary seems like comedy.

The myths pedaled by sycophantic hangers on, and written into official history in the Poeple’s Republic of North Korea include …

Divine Birth

A double rainbow and a glowing new star appeared in the heavens to herald Kim’s birth in 1942, on North Korea’s “sacred” Baekdu Mountain. (Note: Soviet records indicate Kim was born in Vyatskoye, Siberia in 1941). Incidentally, North Koreans are told Kim’s birthday is celebrated throughout the world.

High Achiever

Official records show Kim learned to walk just three weeks old, and was talking at eight weeks. While at Kim Il-Sung University, Kim apparently wrote 1,500 books over a period of three years, along with six full operas. His official biography relates how all of his operas are “better than any in the history of music”. Take that Mozart, Verdi and Wagner!

In sports, the first time Kim picked up a golf club, in 1994, he shot a 38-under par round on North Korea’s only golf course, including 11 holes-in-one. Reports say each of his 17 bodyguards verified the record-breaking feat. He then decided to retire from the sport forever.

No Shit!

Kim’s official biography on the North Korean state web site — since taken down — revealed that Kim did not defecate.

But Kim’s more verifiable traits are equally as weird. Perhaps one of the reasons the North Korean leader was so reclusive was his fear of flying (as was his father, Kim Il Sung). If Kim did travel it was by train. His preference for rail travel is poignant because his death reportedly occurred during a train journey to a region outside of the capital, Pyongyang.

German media reported in 2007 that Kim hoped to solve the famine in his country by breeding giant rabbits. An east German farmer who bred rabbits the size of dogs was asked by North Korea to help set up a big bunny farm to alleviate food shortages but found the batch of 12 giant rabbits he sent to Pyong Yang on a trial basis were all eaten at Kim’s birthday banquet that year.

That’s not all he liked to eat. While on a famous 2001 train trip to Moscow, a Russian envoy reported that roast donkey and fresh lobsters were flown to the train every day. Kim also reportedly ate the food with silver chopsticks, and washed it down with French wine and Champagne. Kim was also said to be one of the world’s biggest buyers of Hennessey cognac.

In the 1950s — purely for propaganda reasons — Kim built an entire city called Kijong-Dong, also known as the Peace Village, in the North’s half of the Korean Demilitarized Zone. To this day it has no residents.

Kim was said to be an avid film collector, amassing more than 20,000 video tapes and DVDs including Friday the 13th, Rambo, Godzilla, Hong Kong action fims, and anything starring Elizabeth Taylor.

In 1978, he ordered the kidnapping of South Korean film director Shin Sang-ok and his actress wife Choi Eun-hee so they could build a North Korean film industry. A decade later, they reportedly escaped while on a trip to Austria, and have since been granted refuge in the United States.

You couldn’t make it up!