Fire Swallows Kim Jong Il’s Landmark Home

A raging wildfire that broke out on October 21st in North Korea’s Samjiyon County, Yangkang Province is said to have
burned down former leader Kim Jong Il’s home on Mount Baekdu near Milyong, the
alleged birthplace of the late leader, the Daily NK has learned.

“The fire in Samjiyon County has spread to
Baekam County putting the country in a state of emergency,” a source in Yangkang
Province told the Daily NK on Tuesday. “The Baekdu Milyong home and most of the
historic revolutionary landmarks have gone up in flames.”

“The 10th Corps [a military body charged
with maintain order and security] in Yangkang Province, the State Security
Department, and provincial units of the People’s Safety Ministry are all on
high alert,” the source elaborated. “To determine the cause of the fire, cadres
from the Central Party have also been dispatched.”

The Mt. Baekdu revolutionary remains
include the ‘Mangyongdae home,’ known as Kim Il Sung’s birthplace, as well as
other landmarks used as part of the North’s idolization of the Kim bloodline. Kim
Jong Il was actually born in Vyatskoye, near Khabarovsk in Russia, on February
16th, 1941, but the North has maintained it was in a log cabin in Milyong on
Mt. Baekdu. With this, the area was developed as a revolutionary landmark from
the 1970s.

When Kim Jong Eun came to power, the site
has been promoted as the origin of the “Baekdu bloodline.” One of the key
examples is back in February 2012, when officials from the Party,  various administrative offices, and the military, held a rally at Baekdu Milyong to commemorate the 70th birthday of the late Kim
Jong Il and vowed their loyalty to the younger Kim.

North Korea claims the area of Mt. Baekdu
carries an abundance of traces from Kim Il Sung’s era of independence fighting
against Japanese colonialists in the 1930s. This is why it is proclaimed the “grand
revolutionary outdoors museum” and visited each year by Party cadres, military
officials, and residents, who go on state tours of the area.

“In Samjiyon County, there are camps for
visitors to stay at such as those for workers, children, and college students,
but if the fire reached this area, it’s likely they all burned down,” the
source explained. “It’s a state of emergency in Hyesan, Samjiyon,
Daehongdan, and others in Yangkang Province, so agencies and businesses have
been assigned to work areas to put out the fire.”

North Korea appears to be trying to wipe
out the fire by mobilizing residents in the area. “They started broadcasts from
the 20th in downtown Hyesan, and even on the Third Broadcast [fixed cable
system to which only North Korean residents are exposed], they’ve been saying that everyone actively must lend a hand to get the
fire under control,” the source said. It is not only in Hyesan City, but residents
in Bochon, Unheung, Baekam, and Shinpa Counties that have also been mobilized
to combat the wildfire.

“The autumn air is dry and so are the
leaves. On top of that the winds are strong, so they haven’t been able to
effectively fight the fire,” she went on. “Despite days having
passed since the fire broke out, they haven’t been able to tame the flames.”

“Already people are saying, whether the
fire was deliberate or an accident, anyone tied to it will probably be
executed,” she said, speculating, “If it’s arson, it will be a huge problem,
since it will be seen as treason. Even if that’s not the case, they will be
held accountable for not managing a key historic site of the country.”

“Some security officials have said that
this incident will not end with simply one or two people being held
responsible,” the source alleged. “Even provincial Party members have been staying
onsite, eating and sleeping there, to try to put out the fire.”

North Korean state media outlets have yet
to report on the fire, but attention is on how or if it will provide coverage
of the incident.

If the state does disclose the fire, it
will come with the political price tag of having to admit to a flaw in its
state security system. However, trying to cover it up will not be any easier. This
is because people will question why state tours to the “Mt. Baekdu
revolutionary site” that have continued since the 1970s have abruptly come to a
halt. 

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