A Christmas Without Kim Jong-Il

This past Christmas, the people of North Korea were without their messiah. That is, their self-anointed messiah.

For a sense of just how bad was Kim Jong-Il, I thought I’d share a few anecdotes reflecting the singularly pernicious nature of this man and what he created in his own image.

Kim was truly a modern Stalin—in some ways, worse. His cult of personality began with the advent of his birth, which North Korea heralded as a second coming, eerily akin to the birth of Jesus Christ. Kim was born February 16, 1941, a date accorded the status of a national holiday and treated like Christmas. On that date, all North Koreans are allowed off work for the grandest parade, the highlight of which is a float marked by a glorious double rainbow and star—indicative of the double rainbow and new star that miraculously appeared in the sky the moment of Kim’s birth.

Speaking of miracles, the totalitarian state’s propaganda machine churned out outrageous distortions, easily exceeding even Stalin standards. State media claimed that in the first round of golf Kim ever played, he broke the all-time world record for the best round of golf in history. The government press also reported that Kim composed more and better operas—and at a younger age—than anyone who ever existed. Songs like “Dear Leader Dispels Raging Storms” were karaoke hits in North Korea.

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An eyewitness to the madness was Kang Chol-hwan, author of the frightening memoir, Aquariums of Pyongyang. Kang recalled how as a child he and his wide-eyed classmates were taught that Kim and his late father were “Edenic” human beings, so perfect that neither man defecated or urinated. They were born without sin, if not purer. My faith teaches that Christ was both 100 percent human and 100 percent divine. North Korea tipped the scales even higher.

Kang Chol-hwan remembered how North Korean children were told that Kim was a “kind of Father Christmas,” because of whose benevolence every child was graciously entitled to a new pair of shoes.

The regime was hell-bent on this messiah complex. The consistent, dogged application of this divine narrative was unrelenting and sickening. I could give example after example that would make you cry. It was evil, just plain evil.

Compounding the obscenity is this tragic truth: no modern people have been so repressed and persecuted. North Koreans experienced a government-induced famine where two-to-three million people (10-15 percent of the population) starved to death from 1995-98. The place is a living, breathing (actually, dying) tragedy. At its apex sat Kim, whose omnipresent face and figure literally hovered above the masses in murals and statues and screens.

I recall one day watching a C-SPAN broadcast of U.S. senators returning from a fact-finding trip to this prison state. It was one of the first overseas trips of Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), who had replaced Bob Dole. Roberts was asked what term he would use to classify the North Korean regime, perhaps “Stalinist,” maybe “totalitarian,” or simply “communist?” I’ll never forget Roberts’ response: He quickly said “theocracy.”

Yes, very good. This viciously atheistic regime that pursued a classic communist war on religion was devoutly religious itself. Ironically, it had not banned religion; it had nationalized it, centralized it, redistributed it—all in the form of Kim Jong-Il. Just as North Korea’s communist government had taken over all industry, all agriculture, and even all crime, it had also seized all faith.

When Whittaker Chambers once commented on the ultimate crime of communists, he explained that they had grossly repeated humanity’s original mistake: “Ye shall be as Gods.”

Ah, in that sense, Kim was indeed “Edenic.”

Kim Jong-Il presented himself to his suffering people as their god and their salvation. Instead, he was their downfall. He was the worst embodiment of the fall of man, and he in turn felled a nation and a people in the ugly process.

Christmas is no time for false messiahs. The worst of them, Kim Jong-Il, spent this season no longer among the living. His people can rest in peace. I have a strong suspicion Kim is not. This Christmas time, little old Kim finally had some explaining to do. He is at long last accountable for his sins.


A version of this article first appeared at American Thinker.

Paul Kengor


Paul Kengor is Professor of Political Science at Grove City College, executive director of The Center for Vision & Values, and author of many books including The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor and Takedown: From Communists to Progressives, How the Left Has Sabotaged Family and Marriage (2015). His new books are A Pope and a President and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Communism (2017).

  • Thomas C. Coleman, Jr.

    Dear Dr. Kengor: As someone whose career has been spent largely on studying that mightmareish land whose leaders still threaten world peace, I thank you for helping to get the word out not just about the Kim Il-song dynasty but about the very nature of Commumism itself. I could fill book with ancedotes about supposedly learned people telling me that what is going on in North Korea isn’t “true communism” or simply saying that it cannot be as bad as those who escape tell us. I hope that there is a chance that I can solicate your support in countering a loud voice of ignorance who has been repating North Korean propaganda to a huge audience. I am talking about the Rev. Franklin Graham, who has been telling viewers of Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren that his father was allowed to preach to North Korean Christians in 1992. The Grahams apparently do not know that those two church buldings were built to trick naive foreigners and the supposed congregants were all members of NK secuity agencies. The younger Graham actually showed video footage of his father presenting a Bible to Kim Il-song, The mere possession of a bible would warrant a death sentence in North Korea. Graham has told Van Susteren’s considerably large audience that the US can win Kim Jong-un over if Presdient Obama would just invite him to watch a basketball game! I have written both to Fox News and Graham’s organization and have received no response. Anyway, people in the free world need to know not only how evil North Korea’s leaders are but also that the evil there is a result of organized atheism.

    • pammie

      What an interesting comment! How do you know about the Graham/”pseudo church” incident? I’m not a TV watcher so I wouldnt have seen Graham Jr on the programme.

      The picture reminds one of the English reaction to the death of Princess Diana minus the teddy bears.

  • Bill Russell

    Years ago, Billy Graham was hosted by the Soviets and he returned praising “religious freedom ” there and even remarked that economic conditions in Russia were good because he had been give caviar even at breakfast. There is no end to the delusional humbugs Lenin called “useful idiots.” Like father like son.