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North Korea steps up idolization with flower ceremonies for Kim Jong Un

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presides over a military parade on April 15, 2017. (Yonhap News/Newscom/Zuma Press/TNS)
April 27, 2019

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The North Korean regime, in an effort to elevate the status of leader Kim Jong Un, has held a nationwide flower presentation event April 13 to celebrate his uncontested re-election as the chairman of the country’s State Affairs Commission.

Flowers were part of the state-contrived personality cults around North Korea’s first two generations of hereditary leaders. The Kimilsungia, a hybrid orchid, and Kimjongilia, a begonia, were bred and named after Kim’s grandfather and father, respectively, and are used in festivals to revere national founder Kim Il Sung and his reclusive successor Kim Jong Il.

North Korean defectors living in South Korea say a ‘Kimjongunia’ flower idolizing Kim Jong Un has yet to make an appearance in North Korea.

But the younger Kim was feted in a flower presentation ceremony ordered to celebrate his re-election to the state’s highest position, while simultaneously putting him on equal footing with the previous two leaders, who are so revered that they are called the people’s ‘Sun’ and ‘Shining Star.’

“We officially held a national flower presentation for Kim Jong Un for the first time ever,” said a source from North Hamgyong province.

North Korean state media reported On April 12 that Kim Jong Un’s re-election took place during a parliamentary meeting.

The source said that on April 13 workers from every organization and people from neighborhood watch units attended the event in Chongjin, the province’s capital.

“They visited the Image of the Sun [a large monument in Chongjin with huge portraits of the late leaders] and other important locations and presented flowers and pledged their loyalty,” said the source.

The source said that the people were getting ready for Day of the Sun, a national holiday that falls on the April 15 birthday of Kim Il Sung that experts have described as being as significant as Christmas is in the West.

“The Central Committee ordered us to hold a separate flower presentation event to celebrate Kim Jong Un’s re-election day ahead of the [already planned] flower presentations for Kim Il Sung,” the source said.

According to the source, the people are surprised that they have to hold a ceremony for Kim Jong Un, who in their minds is still a relatively new leader. He took over in 2012, following his father’s death in late 2011.

“Some of them are saying that they somewhat understand holding flower presentation for Kim Jong Il, because he represents the inheritance of the revolutionary heritage, but it is hard for them to understand the reasoning behind holding a flower ceremony for Kim Jong Un,” said the source.

As preparations for the grandfather Kim’s celebration were underway, fresh flowers for the grandson Kim’s ceremony were harder to come by for some.

“Because of the short notice, some people didn’t have enough time to prepare fresh flowers, so they used artificial flowers that cost 1 or 2 Chinese yuan [15-30 cents],” said a second source, also from North Hamgyong.

The source said that the timing of this ceremony was significant.

“Since this is the first time that the Central Committee has officially organized a flower ceremony for Kim Jong Un, [it makes sense that] it is being held close to the Day of the Sun, our most important holiday. They are trying to raise Kim Jong Un to the same level as his grandfather,” the source said.

While there is currently no official holiday on January 8, the 36-year-old Kim Jong Un’s birthday, the source noted that this year the government gave candies to every North Korean child, as well as giving people the day off – a practice followed for Kim’s father and grandfather’s birthdays.

“People expected that North Korea would idolize Kim Jong Un just like his forefathers,” said the source.

“It has become a reality.”