North Korea faces serious financial difficulties after reportedly spending $100 million (£62m) in the past year building a personality cult around late leader Kim Jong-il.North Korean authorities spent $10 million (£6.2m) on a 23-metre statue of Kim in the capital Pyongyang in April, the South Korean Chosun-Ilbo newspaper wrote on its website. Seven similar statues costing a total of $50 million (£31m) have been built around the country since Kim died in December 2011.
North Korea also spent $25 million (£15m) inscribing his name on 3,200 ‘Towers of Eternal Life’, at crossroads around the country.
The country’s military leadership has been trying to put Kim Jong Il’s popularity on a par with his father Kim Il-Sung who led the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from its foundation in 1948 until his death in 1994. It spent $20 million (£12.4) on 20 million portraits and $1 million on badges of the two Kims.
North Koreans working overseas are being asked to donate $150 (£93) each to pay for the memorials. The country is also borrowing money at rates as high as 40% from Russian and Asian banks and European loan sharks, the Chosun Ilbo says.
“If it doesn’t have the money, the regime should stop building statues,” a North Korean defector told the paper “Instead it’s resorting to extortion.”
Kim Jong-Un became Supreme Leader following his father’s death. Analysts say attempts to build a personality cult around the family are intended to shore-up public support for him.
“Kim Il-sung is the brand,” said Bradley K Martin, author of Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty. “Life in North Korea improved while he was running the country and got worse under his son Kim Jong-il. People remember that, so the boy leader is being cast as the spitting image of his grandfather.”
Kim Jong-Un is the youngest of three brothers and, at 29, the world’s youngest statesman.