Ahead of Kim Jong-il’s birthday on Feb. 16 (also known as the Day of the Shining Star), which is being promoted as the nation’s largest holiday, punishments are being meted out in some parts of the country for those accused of neglecting the cultivation and management of Kimjongilia – the flower named after the late leader.

A source in Yanggang Province told Daily NK on Wednesday that a Samsu County man in his 50s (identified as “Han”), who was the manager of a greenhouse that grows Kimilsungia and Kimjongilia, was sentenced to a forced labor camp for six months. 

In order for the flowers to be properly cultivated, the temperature and humidity in greenhouses must be carefully controlled. However, Han lacked a steady supply of firewood and ended up neglecting the greenhouse. 

The situation suddenly took a strange turn last month when it was decided at a politburo meeting to celebrate both the Day of the Sun (the holiday celebrating Kim Il Sung’s birthday) and the Day of the Shining Star on a “grand scale.” The county party committee ordered Samsu County officials to plan an exhibition of the Kimjongilia flowers. 

Han said that it would be difficult for the flowers to bloom on time for the event, but was dismissed from his position by higher level officials who accused him of negligence. He was also sentenced to six months in a forced labor camp. 

Kimjongilia flowers (Wikimedia Commons)

“Economic activity greatly decreased due to the strengthening of the country’s emergency disease-control measures, which led many Kimilsungia-Kimjongilia greenhouses to become neglected,” the source said. “But now they’re suddenly saying that the Kimjongilia flowers have to be grown in time for the event, so how is Han supposed to grow them?” 

A man in his 40s surnamed Choi, who was in charge of the greenhouse boilers, was also given a three month sentence at a forced labor camp for not “properly setting the temperature.”

“Other employees have been punished. A flower grower surnamed Kim [in her 40s] was called in everyday to the county party committee to report on the state of the flowers and to write self-criticism reports,” the source said. 

This all being said, higher level officials do not seem to be taking any responsibility for the state of these greenhouses. Some North Koreans are pointing out that these officials have failed to provide even the most basic things, such as firewood, to maintain the greenhouses. People are now asking why all the blame is being put on lower-level workers. 

The Kimjongilia flower was originally created by Japanese botanist Kamo Mototeru, who greatly respected the late North Korean leader and spent twenty years researching and developing the plant. The flower is a hybrid cultivar of tuberous begonia native to South America.

In North Korea, the Kimjongilia is referred to as the “immortal flower” and special greenhouses cultivating the plant can be found throughout the country. However, due to difficulties in growing the flower, some are imported from China. Events showcasing both the Kimjongilia and Kimilsungia are held every year.

Translated by Gabriela Bernal

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Kim Chae Hwan is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. He can be contacted at dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.