It has been claimed Kim Jong-un, who became Supreme Leader in 2011 following the death of his father Kim Jong-Il, has been relying on “implicitly mandatory donations” from residents to cover the hefty cost.
That’s according to an anonymous source who spoke to Radio Free Asia (RFA), a private, non-profit media organisation that aims to “provide accurate and timely news and information to Asian countries whose governments prohibit access to a free press”.
The source told the publication authorities were now turning to the public to foot the bill to preserve the corpses of Kim Jong-Il and Kim Il-sung, the founder of North Korea.
The bodies of both men are displayed in the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital city, and RFA estimates the preservation of both to cost approximately $570,000 a year.
In an interview, the source claimed factory workers who donated to the Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-Il funds were presented with awards during official ceremonies — and there was considerable pressure for everyone to contribute.
“The party forced all workers to make regular contributions to the Palace of the Sun, saying they would give commendations and preference to donors,” the source told RFA.
“ … they said that regular loyalty donations will go into the Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-Il Fund, which will honour the great leaders who contributed their lives to the prosperity of their country and the happiness of our people.
“Some people think it is ridiculous how the authorities are ignoring their livelihoods while trying to raise money to keep dead bodies from rotting.”
Similar ceremonies are allegedly occurring across the secretive nation, although a second source told RFA many of the donors were “smugglers who take goods to and from China”.
“The smugglers are able to avoid punishment when they get caught by donating tens of thousands of Chinese Yuan to the Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-Il Fund, in lieu of bribes,” they said.
Earlier this year Reuters revealed Russian scientists were tasked with keeping the bodies of dead leaders fresh in communist states such as North Korea and Vietnam.
“The original embalming and the regular re-embalmings have always been conducted by the scientists of the Moscow lab,” Alexei Yurchak, a professor of anthropology at the University of California, told the organisation.
“Over the years they trained local scientists in some techniques but not all, maintaining the core of the know-how secret.”
Mr Yurchak predicted the bodies of the fallen leaders were “re-embalmed” by Moscow scientists “every one-and-a-half to two-years.