SEOUL (Reuters) - Like his father before him, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s body will likely be embalmed and put on display as a lasting reminder of the bloodline of the family that founded one of the world’s most reclusive states.
The “Dear Leader’s” body is already lying in state in the Kumsusan Mausoleum in Pyongyang where his father Kim Il-sung has lain since his death in 1994 under a clear glass casket - like shrines elsewhere to Russia’s Lenin, China’s Mao Zedong and Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam.
Jong-il died on Saturday, and the body, now under a glass-topped bier, may have already been prepared for embalming.
“They can keep him (in the glass coffin) for up to 10 days, based on the temperature they’re keeping there,” Cho Jae-sung, a South Korean taxidermist.
And like Mao, Lenin and his father, Kim Jong-il will come to literally embody the state.
“It’s all about idolizing (the Kim family). They keep their bodies preserved to keep the regime intact,” said Hong Soon-kyung, a former North Korean ambassador to Thailand who defected and now lives in South Korea and leads a group that aims to democratize the North.
Jong-il, like his father, already has demi-god status in North Korean media, which during his life frequently credited him with near miraculous achievements.
The official line is that he was born on the sacred Mount Paektu, although more likely it was in a military camp in Russia which is widely thought to have helped his father become the North’s first leader at the end of World War Two.
The body of “Eternal President” Kim Il-sung was preserved by a group of Russian embalmers after his fatal heart attack in 1994 and the initial process to preserve his body cost $1 million, with $800,000 poured into additional maintenance costs annually, according to media reports in the South.
According to Daily NK - an internet newspaper dedicated to following North Korea - embalmers from the Scientific Research Institute for Biological Structures located in Moscow were used for the task.
This time, local expertise may be able to cope and as relations between North Korea, a client of the former Soviet Union, and modern Russia have chilled, it may be just as well.
Cho says the chemicals used to preserve bodies are readily available worldwide now.
“They can secure the chemicals in the North,” he said.
Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Jonathan Thatcher