Environmental Vandalism Shouldn’t Go Unmentioned

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the birth of the late Kim Jong Il on February 16th, North Korea has had the phrase ‘Unsurpassed Patriot General Kim Jong Il’ carved in a rock at Mt. Seokda in South Pyongan Province. Chosun Central News Agency (KCNA) claims that the total length of the carving is 120m.

This is not new. The carvings first started appearing in the mid 1970s when Kim Jong Il was appointed successor to Kim Il Sung. In essence it involves picking the most scenic mountains like Keumkang and Myohyang and carving inane things in them like “The Nation’s Celebrated Mountain. Kim Jong Il”

According to defectors, it got worse after Kim Il Sung’s death, when Kim Jong Il ordered the authorities to carve phrases into various scenic locations because “We need to convey to our descendants how great a person we had as Suryeong.”

Mansudae Art Institution did the work, and one after another the noted mountains of North Korea were inscribed upon. “Revolutionary Mt. Baekdu. Kim Jong Il” was carved into the most famous mountain of all. The highlight, if it can be called that, is ‘Jong Il Peak’ carved behind the log cabin where Kim Jong Il was supposedly born and raised.

The North Korean media says that Jong Il Peak is 216m high, which conveniently matches the date of his birthday. They also suggest that on his birthday “Flowers blossom only around Jong Il peak, as if safeguarding it.”

It is estimated that similar acts of vandalism have now occurred in more than a hundred places.

Other items used in the Kim family idolization project will be easily removed when North Korea throws out the Kims; however, letters carved into natural rocks a meter deep are not so easy to erase. Whether digging the letters out or filling them in, both leave a permanent scar.

This graffiti, for that is all it is, should no longer be tolerated. If it is, North Korea will continue to obliterate otherwise delightful mountains and rock faces in the name of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il and eventually Kim Jong Eun, leaving no rock left unscathed.

The Kim family might think that their reign will go on forever, but one, Kim Jong Nam, and a great many people besides disagree. The authorities should not be allowed to go on doing this uncriticized. It is astonishing that none of the environmental groups in South Korea or the wider world deem it necessary to express concern at this out-and-out environmental vandalism.