Yes, there was a pong around Kim Jong Il – and here you’ll learn why

Nobody wants to sit beside a shit - not even in North Korea.

Official accounts of the death of North Korea’s self-styled “Dear Leader” – like just about everything from that benighted country – should be disbelieved.

They are saying Kim Jong Il died from a heart attack while travelling by train on Saturday morning.


We get lots of clues to what really happened from this obituary.

Kim, who came to power in 1994 upon the death of his father, North Korea founder Kim Il Sung, led one of the world’s most enduring dictatorships, a repressive regime that has long defied predictions of its demise.

Against the odds, it survived into the 21st century while its people went hungry and its allies drifted away to pursue globalization and reform.

Kim Jong Il remained to the end an unrepentant communist, refusing to liberalize North Korea’s economy even as his people became some of the world’s poorest, with millions dying of starvation and tens of thousands imprisoned on charges of political crimes. While rival South Korea became one of the world’s wealthiest nations, many in the North have earned less than a dollar a month.

This is a country of shortages: it is short of food and short of money, and it has been led by a bloke who was short of stature, which is why he would have opted for a bouffant hairdo, oversize glasses and elevator shoes.

A country with those sorts of shortages is not likely to be generously supplied with fertiliser.

And the people there can’t afford to throw anything away. Not even a bad leader (who would be flushed down the electoral dunny in this country).

Let’s go on to the next clue: Kim’s reputation as a canny survivor and negotiator.

He weathered a storm of international condemnation to acquire and develop nuclear devices, one of which his country tested in 2006.

To the great irritation of U.S. diplomats, he repeatedly used the threat of nuclear weapons to exact political concessions and economic aid. At the same time, he ignored pressure to release an estimated 200,000 citizens kept in a gulag of prison camps, some for transgressions as minor as failing to keep portraits of Kim and his father on their walls.

“I loathe Kim Jong Il,” former President George W. Bush once told journalist Bob Woodward, calling him a “pygmy” and a “spoiled child.”

Yep. He got up the noses of Western leaders.

Then we learn that –

Kim was born Feb. 16, 1941, in the Russian city of Khabarovsk, where his father was stationed with other Korean and Chinese guerrillas being trained by the Soviet army to fight the Japanese.

The North Korean propaganda machine later claimed his birth took place a year later on Mt. Paektu, a sacred peak in Korean folklore, and that it was heralded by a double rainbow.

It was only the first of many outlandish legends in a cult of personality that also credited him with writing dozens of books and operas and making 11 holes-in-one in a single round of golf.

There’s a strong whiff around those stories, eh?

And then –

Although the first born, he did not take for granted his eventual succession and worked hard to ingratiate himself with his powerful father.

In other words, he had to make an effort to get close to his father, who no doubt wanted to keep him at a distance.

Kim eventually became director of the ruling party’s bureau of agitation and propaganda, a job that enabled him to get involved with one of his great passions: cinema.

Kim’s obsession with cinema led to a bizarre episode in 1978 in which he ordered the kidnapping of a famous South Korean actress and her husband, a film director, to improve North Korea’s film studios. The couple, Choi Eun Hee and Shin Sang Ok, made films for Kim for eight years and won his trust enough to be sent to Europe for a film festival, where they escaped and returned to South Korea.

The pair had covert tape recordings of their conversations with Kim and later wrote a memoir containing one of the few firsthand accounts of his personality. They described a man who could be alternately imperious and self-deprecating, once quipping to Choi about his height, “Small as a midget’s turd, aren’t I?”

We are getting there – we have got to the turd bit of Alf’s analysis.

Because Kim was a compulsive liar, however, he seriously understated the magnitude of things.

Let’s move on to his appetite for the good life while all around him were starving.

Kim imported $650,000 worth of Hennessy’s finest cognac in a single year. His appetite for women and drink was exceeded by a love for the finest foods. He hired for his private kitchens a sushi chef from Tokyo and a pizza chef from Italy, both of whom wrote accounts of their experiences.

At the time, North Korea was in the midst of a famine that would eventually kill as many as 2 million people, up to 10% of the population, and leave many of them permanently stunted.

Homeless, starving children became a common sight at North Korean train stations. Kim nonetheless sent couriers on shopping excursions to buy rice cakes in Tokyo, mangoes in Thailand, cheese in France.

We are almost there – he was a shit.

Kim apparently saw no contradiction between the hardships of ordinary North Koreans and his own indulgences. While regular citizens could be sent to prison camps for watching South Korean or U.S. films, Kim maintained a personal library containing about 20,000 movies.

And that’s it.

He was not just any old shit. He was a bloody great shit (notwithstanding his shortcomings in the height department).

Shit, of course, is is the waste product from an animal’s digestive tract expelled through the anus or cloaca during defecation.

The distinctive pong from shit is due to bacterial action, as Wikipedia explains.

Gut flora produce compounds such as indole, skatole, and thiols (sulfur-containing compounds), as well as the inorganic gas hydrogen sulfide. These are the same compounds that are responsible for the odor of flatulence. Consumption of foods with spices may result in the spices being undigested and adding to the odor of feces. The perceived bad odor of feces has been hypothesized to be a deterrent for humans, as consumption or touching it may result in sickness or infection.[4] Of course, human perception of the odor is a subjective matter; an animal that eats feces may be attracted to its odor.

In the upshot, shit is organic matter which is recycled back into a simpler form which plants and other autotrophs may once again absorb.

And as we observed earlier, shortages in North Korea encourage the people there to throw nothing away.

And that’s what happened to Kim Jong Il, Alf reckons. Forget about heart attacks. He would have simply decomposed when been put to good use – at long last – as fertiliser.

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