Movie to mark life of Korean dictator

Author: By David McNeill in Tokyo

The life of North Korea’s ailing leader, Kim Jong-il, has long been extravagantly window-dressed by the state’s diligent chroniclers, but now it is about to get the full regal treatment with a new movie chronicling his exploits from childhood to living legend.

North Korea’s state media said this week that the first part of a multi-series documentary about Mr Kim’s birth, childhood and early achievements, when he developed “military ideas and theories and tactics of [his father] President Kim Il-sung”, has already been produced. Although other propaganda movies extol Mr Kim’s boundless virtues ? one records that he came down from the heavens accompanied by a huge snowstorm ? this will be the first to “comprehensively deal… with his revolutionary exploits”, said the Korean Central News Agency.

News that the 68-year-old dictator’s life is about to be sealed in celluloid has inevitably ratcheted up speculation on his health. Official television pictures released this month showed the once-well-upholstered Mr Kim looking gaunt and walking with a limp. South Korean media have reported that he has had a stroke and has pancreatic cancer.

Pyongyang watchers believe that Kim Jong-il’s youngest son, 26-year-old Kim Jong-un, is being groomed as his successor to the world’s only hereditary Communist dictatorship. Some speculated in the South Korean media yesterday that the new retrospective is another step in the countdown to a family takeover after Mr Kim’s death.

Mr Kim inherited an intense cult of personality from his father, known as the Great Leader, who was also the subject of an official 20-part retrospective biopic in the last year of his life.

The South’s Unification Ministry, which closely observes its reclusive northern neighbour, says, however, that Mr Kim has stepped up official duties in an effort to dismiss talk about his health. The ministry has counted 82 factory visits this year, up from 57 in 2008, a sign that he may be recovering from his recent illnesses.

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