Japan from the inside out

Holy mother

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, December 28, 2011

MOTHERHOOD is an integral part of the narrative that religions present, whether the mother is the Aztec earth goddess, Mary in the Roman Catholic tradition, or Kim Jong-suk in the religion of Juche. For you unbelievers, Kim Jong-suk was Kim Il-sung’s wife and Kim Jong-il’s sainted mother. Her portrait is placed on walls in the home and worshipped in the same way as those of her husband and son.

Sheela na Gig --- The Maternal

Jong-suk died at the age of 31 while giving birth to a stillborn daughter. She is officially known as “The Heroine of the Anti-Japanese Revolution”, and was given the posthumous title of Hero of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on 21 September 1972. Even though Jong-suk died while quite young, she is also cited as the founder of the Workers’ Party of Korea auxiliary organizations, the Korean Children’s Union, and the Korean Democratic Women’s Union. Verily, she must have been possessed by the divine spirit.

It’s natural, therefore, for theologians to turn their attention to the mother of Kim Jong-eun, the latest blessed event in that country’s continuing stream of miracles. Her name was Ko Yong-hui, and she died in 2004 after having brought forth Second Son Kim Jong-cheul (AKA The Girly Man) and Kim Jong-eun, who was known in his younger days as the “Morning Star General”. Perhaps his manger was strategically placed as part of Providence’s plan to guide the Wise Men to Pyeongyang.

Ko was one of Kim Jong-il’s mistresses rather than his wife. He had another concubine when they met, but she quickly became his favorite. Shortly before her death, the propagandists got to work and proclaimed her “The Respected Mother who is the Most Faithful and Loyal Subject to the Dear Leader Comrade Supreme Commander”. (It’s good to be king, eh?) They seem to have started the process of elevating her to the Pantheon too, but that project has now ended.

In fact, she’s lately become something of a non-person, despite being a literal non-person for seven years. The North Korean People Urgent Action Network (RENK) a Japan-based NPO, reported on the 23rd that Ko’s name has not appeared in any of the local media reports about her son following the death of The Son earlier this month. The Respected Mother, etc., no longer seems to be worthy of veneration.

That’s probably because she was born in Osaka.

RENK also reports that the mention of her birthplace and place of residence for the first 11 years of her life has been classified top secret, the mere mention of which will result in severe punishment. (RENK thinks that means concentration camps.) Thus, North Korean heretics face the real risk of Hell on Earth, even if the heresy is said to be an open secret in the country.

Juche Tower --- The Paternal

Ko was a member of a zainichi family; i.e., Japanese-born ethnic Koreans who choose to retain Korean citizenship. Her family repatriated when she was 11 under a program that was conducted from 1950 to 1984. She later became a member of a dance troupe that entertained His Holiness, who saw the light after seeing her righteous moves on the dance floor.

RENK speculates this situation might cause problems with Chongryun, the association of North Korean citizens in Japan (some members of which have seats in the North Korean national assembly). Chongryun knows all the facts too, so from the regime’s perspective, they know too much. Will that cause Pyeongyang to place some distance between themselves, despite the financial assistance the group provides? A controversy such as this could cause the Mother of all Schisms.

Here’s the problem: Though her family was ethnically Korean, Ko was born in an unclean place rather than the Pure Land, and the North Koreans are nothing if not purists. Worse, one of the principle tenets of the Church of Juche is that everyone in Japan has cloven hooves and forked tongues. Finally, it doesn’t help that her Korean ancestors were from Jeju Island, which is now part of South Korea. (The location of the family seat is a big deal in Korean culture.)

All of this brings to mind another question: When Kim Jong-eun and his brother Jong-chul visited Japan in 1991, did they swing by Osaka to see their mother’s hometown?

Kim Jong-nam at the Gates of Hell (Kitamura Toshifumi/AFP/Getty Images)

That’s right: Officials in both Japan and South Korea have confirmed that the two brothers entered the country on 12 May 1991 and stayed for 11 days. Kim Jong-eun, then eight years old, was carrying a Brazilian passport in the name of Joseph Park, and he obtained a Japanese visa in Vienna. The Japanese were tipped off that he was in the country illegally and investigated, but he had already left.

They traced a credit card used by an adult member of the traveling party and discovered that one of the places they visited was Tokyo Disneyland. That’s a favorite destination of the Kim brothers — Number One Son Kim Jong-nam was caught with his wife and kids in Tokyo on 1 May 2001 traveling on a Dominican passport. Before their deporation, he told authorities that he was taking the family to see Disneyland. It was later revealed that Jong-nam had been a frequent visitor to Tokyo. Rumor has it that he stayed in the same Shinbashi hotel and that he especially liked the public baths.

Really, Japan and the Disney Corporation should be proud of themselves. Christians make pilgrimages to the Holy Land and Lourdes, Moslems try to visit Mecca at least once in their lifetimes, and the Kim Brothers bowed at the Tokyo shrine of Mickey and Minnie.

And that brings to mind the final question: Did Kim Jong-nam and Kim Jong-eun feel a special kinship with the Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride when they swung by Fantasyland?

Update: There’s a report now in Japan from two sources, one of whom is a Chongryun official, that a crisis could erupt in North Korea as soon as February. The party and the military are trying to establish Jong-eun’s position, but any unhappiness over the division of spoils could touch off an old-fashioned Joseon dynastic struggle, they say. Battles of this sort between two sons of the king with different mothers are an old story in other parts of the world as well.

These sources suggest that Number One Son Jong-nam (who has gotten fatter since the above picture was taken) is still a factor to be accounted for. The Chongryun source says he is very personable and has maintained ties with people in the party and the military his own age. He goes so far as to say he is even quite popular among this group. The source also notes that he was the heir apparent before he got caught with his proverbial pants down in Japan.

Finally, Jong-nam himself says he urged his father to open the country and adopt reforms, and got exiled for his opinion. There is, say the sources, a reform wing of sorts in North Korea, and it is not out of the question the reformers would unite behind him.

The Sheela na Gig photo was taken by John Harding
The Kims are consecrated boys, every last one of them.

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One Response to “Holy mother”

  1. […] there is Kim Jong-nam (as well as an interesting backgrounder on Ko Yong-hui, the mother of the Great Successor, who was […]

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