Did atheist N. Korea's leaders really say they'll "pray" for Kim Jong-il?

Why have his successors called for three minutes of prayer at the end of his official mourning period?

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Entire families are imprisoned for the offense of a relative. However, conditions are harsh for those not in prison.

“Nearly a million people have died in North Korea because of acute food shortages since the mid-1990s. Millions more, especially children and the elderly, continue to suffer from chronic malnutrition,” says Amnesty International. ”This is in large part due to failed or counterproductive government policies implemented under the leadership of Kim Il-Sung and then under Kim Jong-il.”

As the nation is officially atheist, what’s the explanation for this puzzling order from the Communist Party that the entire nation will pray on Dec. 29 for the late Kim Jong-il?

“The North said it would place Kim’s body in the Kumsusan memorial palace in Pyongyang,” reported Time magazine, “and would hold a national mourning period until Dec. 29, when “all the people in the nation will spend three minutes in silent prayer.”

Who will they pray to?

The Times of India ran an Associated Press story citing the ordered three minutes of prayer, noting that all entertainment would be banned during the mourning period and that the country would accept no “foreign delegations hoping to express condolences.” 


London’s Daily Telegraph interpreted the order to pray for three minutes – and the day on which it will occur — differently: “There will be 12 days of mourning and, on December 28, a state funeral will see cannons fired across the country and three minutes of silence. ”

For outsiders to be baffled by North Korea is nothing new. The late dictator was a puzzle, noted the Telegraph:

Mocked in the West for his monochrome zipped suits, his bouffant plume and his short, portly stature, Kim Jong-il was described in his

own country as a uniquely brave soldier, the “Generalissimo” who succeeded in repelling American and South Korean aggression for decades.

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Rob Kerby
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