Paektu and Succession Politics in the DPRK

As the DPRK reaches the orgiastic apotheosis of Kim Jong Il’s birthday celebrations on February 16, it’s worth noting that explicit mention of revolutionary successors has finally emerged into the country’s foreign propaganda.

On February 11, at the conclusion of a huge pilgrimage by North Korean youth from Pyongyang to the edge of Ryanggang province and the Chinese border, a big meeting with heavy hitters of the Workers’ Party of Korea was held at the Mount Paektu base camp.   Now we have this KCNA dispatch about Kim Jong Il’s alleged birthplace on the slopes of Mount Paektu which refers explicitly to “the three commanders of Mount Paektu,” indicating that Kim Jong Il’s revolutionary tasks (and invincible personality cult) will be passed on to his son.

Right about now, there is a great need to understand the history of this peculiar regime in Pyongyang and what the “secret base” at Mount Paektu means within the politics of succession, and the role that Ryanggang province has had within Kim-centered revolutionary discourse over time.  I can recommend no better single piece of writing on this subject than the essay by Kim Jong Il, “Let Us Develop Ryanggang Province into a Firm Base for Education in Revolutionary Traditions,” given during an inspection tour in 1968.

(Thanks to the University of Oregon Library for its comprehensive databases of North Korean materials.)

Springs of Mount Paektu / Changbaishan on the Sino-North Korean border -- photo by Adam Cathcart

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