With the death of Kim Jong-il, the world loses one of the greatest self-aggrandizing fantasists of all time. Here are ten of the craziest Jong-il stories floating out there:
- 1. North Korean schools teach children that Jong-il's birth was "supernatural." He was born in a log cabin inside a secret base on the sacred Mt. Paekdu, the story goes, and his arrival was accompanied by the apparition of a new star. The seasons then spontaneously changed from winter to spring, and a double-rainbow appeared, followed by a talking iceberg. (Western accounts say he was born in a guerrilla camp in Russia.)
- 2. In 2006, Jong-il learned that a man in Germany breeds giant rabbits. He found them delightful and decided they were the key to solving North Korea's widespread hunger problem:
So Kim gets in touch with 68-year-old Karl Szmolinsky of Berlin, the world's foremost breeder of giant rabbits, and says he wants Szmolinsky to come to Pyongyang and set up a farm to breed these rabbits. For Kim believes that the meat yielded by these rabbits will end his people's starvation. [...]
Undeterred, Kim pays for 12 rabbits, at a cost of about $115 each. He tells Szmolinsky that the rabbits will be kept at a petting zoo in Pyongyang and, in a few months, Szmolinsky will be flown in to help really set up a farm for breeding.
In February of 2007, about five or six months later, Szmolinsky gets a call from a North Korean official canceling that trip. Why? Because, Szmolinsky believes, Kim couldn't resist... and ate the giant rabbits to celebrate his birthday.
- 3. State textbooks claim Jong-il does not produce urine or feces
- 4. Jong-il long claimed to be the world's greatest golfer. In 1994, Pyongyang media reported that he shot 38 under par on a regulation 18-hole golf course, including 5 holes in one.
- 5. As the World Festival of Youth and Students approached in 1989, Jong-il had disabled residents removed from Pyongyang. The government also distributed pamphlets that touted a wonder drug that cures shortness. He then sent the short people who responded to a series of uninhabited islands, in the hopes of ridding his nation of "imperfect" genes.
- 6. He imprisoned relatives of convicts because he is convinced "the stain of criminality" persists for three generations.
- 7. The leader had a fear of flying, so he had lobsters airlifted onto his armored train — presumably the same train he died on — when he traveled.
- 8. Jong-il was Hennessy's biggest single client in 1993 and 1994, spending $850,000 annually on the cognac.
- 9. In 1978, Jong-il had South Korean filmmaker Shin Sang-ok kidnapped and held captive with his wife for 8 years, forcing the couple to produce propaganda movies for him. He'd take an executive producer credit on all of them. One was a blatant ripoff of Godzilla called Pulgasari, about the evils of capitalism. The couple eventually escaped during a location shoot in Austria. Jong-il later instructed his Ministry of Culture to "make more cartoons."
- 10. Kijong-Dong is a city built in the 1950s by Kim's father, set on the border as an example to South Korea of their superiority. No one lives there, but every effort was made to make it function like an actual city. The buildings have no glass in the windows and no rooms: They are just concrete shells. It's also home to the world's largest flagpole.