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With Koreas on Edge, Where Is Kim Jong Il?

Nov 23, 2010 – 11:57 AM
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Lauren Frayer

Lauren Frayer Contributor

(Nov. 23) -- With his country on the brink of war, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il spent today reinforcing stereotypes about his own eccentricity: He took his youngest son and heir apparent on a tour of a soy sauce factory.

That's according to a report by North Korea's state news agency, excerpted by the south's Yonhap service. The North Korean dictator and his third son, Kim Jong Un -- who recently became a four-star general in order to one day succeed his father -- also visited a medical school in Pyongyang, the report said.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il visiting the Changsong textile mill
KNS / AFP / Getty Images
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il visits the Changsong textile mill last week. Today it was reported that he and his youngest son toured a soy sauce factory and a medical school.

The news didn't appear on the Korean Central News Agency's English-language website, where translations often lag by a few days. Yonhap said the report was dated today but didn't specify when the two Kims visited the soy sauce factory.

Word of Kim's odd sightseeing schedule came amid speculation about his whereabouts, and about whether he personally authorized today's attack on a South Korean border island. North Korean artillery sent more than 100 shells raining down on Yeonpyeong Island, killing two South Korean marines and wounding at least 18 other people.

But while today's events ratcheted up tensions on the Korean peninsula to one of their highest points since the unresolved Korean War, Kim appeared to have soy sauce on his mind.

It's not the first time the North Korean leader has flummoxed the world with his bizarre behavior. He commands a cult of personality in North Korea, where state media have at various times reported that the "Dear Leader" can control the weather with his mind, that his birth was foretold by a double rainbow and that he regularly shoots three or four holes-in-one per round of golf.

Many North Koreans also believe that Kim's late father, Kim Il Sung, was a renowned wizard who supposedly fashioned a hand grenade from a pine cone during his guerrilla days fighting the Japanese, a South Korean professor noted in a recent op-ed in the JoongAng Daily. The country's next likely head, Kim Jong Un, apparently recited ancient Chinese poems by the age of 3, it said.
Filed under: World, Weird News
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