Kim Jong Il has upgraded his deification strategies to strengthen the family cult system. Western reports often detail Korea's unique "juche ideology" - a theology of Kim worship, repeated hourly and daily, reminding Koreans they are insolubly bound to the Kim family and must erase foreign influence from their minds.
Yet juche is a subcategory of a far more encompassing umbrella of deification known as woo sang hwa, or idol worship. In North Korea, woo sang hwa contains all the aspects of cult worship. [North Korean] socialism makes "family loyalty," with Kim at the head, the supreme good - a major deflection from communism.
Kim-worship in the North is a vivid - and inescapable - spectacle to behold, say visitors. Thousands of giant "towers of eternality" to Kim scatter the landscape. Special "Kimjongilia" crimson begonias are tended in family gardens. Kim's media calls him variously the "Guardian Deity of the Planet," and "Lodestar of the 21st Century."
In 2002, Korean mass dances known as Arirang, featured 100,000 flag wavers (and was described in state media as the "greatest event of humankind.") Many loyal Koreans bow twice daily to Kim pictures that sit alone on the most prominent wall of their homes.
Perhaps the most misunderstood aspect of the Korean cult project is its recent veering toward race and ethnic solidarity, say Kim watchers. His main appeal to his people today, a push that rarely gets attention outside the North, is to the racial superiority of a people whose isolation and stubborn xenophobia supposedly makes their bloodlines purer. Since the 1990s Kim has more fervently claimed lineage to the first ancient rulers of Korea, a move intended to place him in a position of historical, if not divine, destiny as leader of the peninsula.
[By Robert Marquand, The Christian Science Monitor]