The Washington Post

Kimjongilia: the flower of a fallen dictator

As part of North Korea’s 13-day frenzied mourning process, the body of Kim Jong Il was laid out in state. The Post’s Chico Harlan reported from Seoul:


Unchecked by any outside influence, Kim Jong Il relished in eccentric behaviors and self-centered tributes — from giant statues of himself to stadium-wide flag dances. Kim, an avid film lover, relished in the spectacle, understanding the importance of show.

In a look at the some of the more peculiar choices of North Korea, The Post's Blaine Harden wrote in 2008:

Planted liberally among the monstrous buildings honoring the revolutionary achievements of the Kims are billboards bearing photographs of a red perennial begonia called Kimjongilia. It supposedly blooms on his birthday. Other billboards display North Korea’s second national flower, an orchid called Kimilsungia.

The flower was created by a Japanese botanist who cultivated the new breed of begonia to bloom on Kim Jong Il’s birthday, Feb. 16. It has since been bred to bloom for longer periods of time, according to the Korean Central News Agency, which reported in 2008: “The agent makes it possible to keep the flower in fresh state for a long time without giving any hindrance to its growth so as to open the immortal flower more wonderfully.”

Kim Jong Il is hardly the only dignitary to have provided naming inspiration to a flower. The many different varieties of roses have given gardeners amble opportunity to pay tribute to everyone from British royalty, John F. Kennedy and Barbra Streisand to Rosie O’Donnell. But they likely don’t also have the added benefit of the flower’s name being turned into a documentary of the same name, detailing a history of horrific human abuses:


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