An Unhelpful Expense Even in Death

[imText1]Kim Il Sung, who died 17 years ago and in whose honor the whole of North Korea is today celebrating, lies in state in Keumsusan Memorial Palace in the Daeseong-district of Pyongyang. His body is allegedly cared for at great expense with the latest techniques by a team of Russian experts, yet rumor has it that his corpse is still shrinking.

One defector who went to see Kim’s body in both 2002 and 2003 asserted the same rumor today, saying, “I went twice, one year apart, and his body really had gotten smaller. The other cadres I went with thought the same way.”

“Only the more observant people who visit Keumsusan Memorial Palace can get that feeling,” the source said, “but it is true that this opinion is forming among a significant number of visitors. That said, speaking recklessly about Kim Il Sung’s body is dangerous, so we just gloss over it.”

Based on a brief survey of other defectors from Pyongyang now living in Seoul, the feeling that Kim is getting smaller as he approaches 100 years of age appears to be common.

Against the backdrop of rumors about Kim’s body there is also further talk about the body of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin far away in Moscow. Word has apparently reached North Korea via Russian citizens and North Korean students that Lenin’s body is also getting smaller and, worse yet, is now down to the size of a newborn child!

On this, Professor Andrei Lankov of Kookmin University told The Daily NK, “It’s true to say that there is a rumor about the mummified corpse of Lenin getting smaller, but it is impossible to verify.” He went on, “Even after the fall of the USSR, the work of the institute in charge of preserving the body of Lenin stayed veiled. Therefore, it is impossible to find out what Lenin’s corpse really looks like.”

However, he went on, “I believe that the rumor that Lenin’s corpse has shrunk makes sense. It has been preserved for about a hundred years, and its surroundings have been deteriorating.”

A South Korean expert on mummification, Kim Han Gyeom, a professor of pathology at Korea University admitted, “I went to Russia to see Lenin’s corpse, but I couldn’t tell whether it was smaller because I failed to see it,” but pointed out, “When moisture leaves the body, it is true that the size would ordinarily get smaller.”

However, Kim also pointed out that it would be impossible for Lenin to shrink to the size of a baby because bones do not shrink.

He went on, “The Russian team which preserves Kim Il Sung’s corpse has the know-how to present it as its living figure was, and they are proud of having the world’s finest techniques. They will absolutely never reveal their know-how on how to preserve a body.”

The biomedical research center in Russia which carries out the preservation work on Lenin, Ho Chi Minh, Mao Zedong and Kim Il Sung was revealed to the world in October, 1990.

After the initial embalming of a corpse by the center it needs constant maintenance: a preservative is applied to areas exposed to the air twice a week. Once every few years the body must be immersed in balsam liquid.

According to various reports, North Korea spent $1 million embalming Kim’s body, and has spent $800,000 per year on annual maintenance ever since, meaning more than $15 million since Kim died in 1994.

On this issue, the late Hwang Jang Yop once said, “If the North Korean authorities had not spent that enormous amount of money to build Mt. Keumsoo Memorial Palace into a shrine, such a huge number of people would not have starved to death.”