Following the death of the Great Leader, Kim Il-sung, in 1994 and his subsequent elevation to the role of Eternal President of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea his son and successor, Kim Jong-il decreed that eternal life monuments (Yeong Saeng) be erected throughout North Korea. These monuments, found in all cities and towns and in workplaces, at sports centres and anywhere people congregate, are thought to number around 3,000 thousand and had the single purpose of reminding the people that Kim Il-sung is with them for ever. When built they were typically inscribed with the words, “Great Leader Comrade Kim Il-sung is with us for eternity”.
After the death of Kim Jong-il in 2011 the wording on many of the monuments was amended to remind the people that he too (having been appointed Eternal General Secretary of the Worker’s Party of Korea and Eternal Chairman of the National Defence Commission of Korea) would be with his people for ever.
As far as I know North Korea is the only country in the world where the highest offices (or indeed any offices) in the land are occupied by persons deceased.
In so far as I can ascertain this monument was constructed in 1998 and updated in 2012 following the death of Kim Jong-il, the year before. Compared to other eternal life monuments I saw this one appears more streamlined and slicker and the flowers around the base of others have been replaced here with depictions of places of great significance to Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il.
On two faces of the base we see depictions of Mt Paektu accompanied by the “songs” of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. Mt Paektu was, according to official records, the location from which Kim Il-sung lead his successful campaign to rid Korea of Japanese imperialists (1920s to 1945) and it is where his son and successor, Kim Jong-il, was born in 1941.
On the remaining faces of the base the birthplaces of the two leaders are depicted, Mangyongdae – the birthplace of Kim Il-sung – and the little hut on Mt Paektu where Kim Jong-il was born.
My final picture is a view south from the monument. In the distant haze (from China industry – not that of North Korea!) you can make out ‘new Sinuiju’ with an arable ‘greenbelt’ area separating it from the original city. Also note the multi-lane highway with hardly a vehicle to be seen – a familiar sight in North Korea. In the foreground are children enjoying some roller-skating as children might any where in the world.
This blog entry is one of a group (loop) of entries based on my trip to Sinuiju, North Korea. I suggest you continue with my next entry – Come Into Our Tender Embrace – or to start the loop at the beginning go to my introductory entry – In North Korea – On the Border with China.