If you happen to find yourself in Pyongyang on July 27, the 60th anniversary of the Korean War, you'll want to avoid the official unveiling of China's gift marking the occasion: a life-size wax statue of the late leader Kim Jong Il.
According to Chinese state media, which, judging by photos from the Beijing press conference unveiling the statue, are covering it extensively, the statue was made by the Great Man Wax Museum of China at the request of the Chinese Communist Party. Chinese media are circulating photos from the event, credited to state agency Xinhua.
Kim, who died in late 2011, is appropriately portrayed in the trademark green jumpsuit and beige parka he never seemed without. His eery, often forced-looking smile doesn't come across much better in wax form than it did in his countless propaganda portraits.
The 60th anniversary of the Korean War might seem like an odd moment for a Chinese gift to North Korea, given that North Korea unilaterally started the war, was devastated by American bombings during the fighting, lost most of the territory it had initially gained and, ultimately, was saved only by a massive influx of Chinese troops.
But the event is, despite the strangeness of this symbol marking it, not as politically unusual as it might seem. North Korean official propaganda asserts that the war was actually launched by the United States and that it was a glorious victory for Kim Jong Il's father and the leader at the time, Kim Il Sung. The Chinese government, though of late openly displeased with its misbehaving Korean client state, has treated the war as a common bond between the two countries.
James Pearson of NKNews writes, in evaluating the gift, that South Korea-based analysts think there may be a thaw between the two countries after a few months of tension. Perhaps this is a token meant to reinforce that policy, but it's a reminder of how creepy North Korea's quasi-religious personality cult can look from the outside.
More photos here, if you're into that sort of thing.