SEOUL: North Korea celebrated the birth anniversary Wednesday of founder Kim Il-Sung, with current leader Kim Jong-Un paying respects at his grandfather’s mausoleum, as rights groups highlighted his “horrific” human rights legacy.
At the stroke of midnight, Kim Jong-Un, accompanied by top military leaders, visited the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang—the mausoleum holding the embalmed body of his grandfather, the North’s official KCNA news agency said.
The similarly preserved body of Kim’s father, Kim Jong-Il, whom he succeeded as leader in December 2011, is housed in the same building.
“Kim Jong-Un, together with the other visitors, paid homage to Kim Il-Sung in the humblest reverence,” KCNA said.
Kim Il-Sung died of a heart attack in 1994. His birthday is known as the Day of Sun in North Korea and is a major national holiday.
On Tuesday, the North’s nominal head of state, Kim Yong-Nam, extolled Kim Il-Sung’s “peerless” life and legacy at a mass meeting of top military and party officials at Pyongyang’s Indoor Stadium.
His speech included a condensed hagiography, detailing Kim’s rise from fearless anti-Japanese guerrilla to founder of the nation and “victor” over the “US imperialists” in the 1950-53 Korean War.
The New York-based rights monitor, Human Rights Watch (HRW), offered a stark counter-narrative on Tuesday, describing Kim as a brutal dictator who “annihilated” personal freedoms and created a gulag state that went on to become one of the world’s worst human rights abusers.
“While celebrations occur in Pyongyang, the world should remember the truly horrific human rights legacy of Kim Il-Sung,” HRW’s deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said in a statement.
“Kim Il-Sung based his rule on ruthless rights abuses, repression of independent voices, and economic and social controls that led to deprivation and ultimately widespread starvation,” Robertson said.
“His grandson Kim Jong-Un continues to follow those rights-abusing policies, and should be called before the International Criminal Court (ICC) to answer for these crimes,” he added.
A UN commission of Inquiry published a report in February last year that concluded North Korea was committing human rights violations without parallel in the contemporary world.