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North Korea has made the decision to embalm its departed leader, Kim Jong Il. After all, he did proclaim that he was an “eternal ruler,” like his father. “Great leader Kim Jong Il will be preserved to look the same as when he was alive,” KCNA, the North Korea’s official news agency, announced on January 12.
Officials will also hang smiling portraits of him and put up ‘towers to his immortality’ around the country. His birthday, which falls on February 16, is to be commemorated as ‘the greatest auspicious holiday of the nation’ and named the Day of the Lodestar. The long-range rockets that North Korea started testing in the year 1998 also coincidentally share that same name.
There has been speculation for weeks over whether Kim Jong Il’s body would be embalmed like that of his father, Kim Il Sung. It took almost one year to preserve the elder Kim in Moscow, which purportedly cost the secretive nation $1 million. Some debated whether North Korea would be able to afford preserving his body, which might also explain the reports that the North Koreans might be the ones to do the embalming, instead of sending him to Moscow’s world-famous lab.
They will have to be very careful if they are going to cut costs and do it themselves. Mao Zedong’s body was filled with 22 liters of formaldehyde by Chinese undertakers during the mid-seventies and reportedly began leaking a little over 20 years later.
Kim Jong Il’s body will be put on permanent display inside a glass coffin at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace. The palace was erected in 1976 and was the official residence of Kim Jong Il’s father, who is North Korea’s first (and eternal) president and the founder of the nation. He passed away in 1994, which prompted his son to spend the exorbitant amount of around $100 million to convert Kumsusan into a mausoleum.
Unsurprisingly, the inside of the structure is quite eerie. The visitors of the mausoleum travel around the building on moving walkways, listening to narrations of mourning, and gaze at the bronze statues of sorrowful, grieving people. They also travel through a machine that blows dust at them. At the end of this morbid tour, they are brought to Kim Il Sung’s body, which lies in a glass sarcophagus.
As of now, it has not been determined if Kim Jong Il will be put to rest next to his father or if he will get to lie at the end of his own separate walkway. Either way, many North Koreans will be sure to visit and continue to mourn his passing.