North Korea has spent at least US$40 million on the personality cult surrounding ex-leader Kim Jong-il since he died in December last year. With yet more statues to be built, the figure is likely to keep growing.
The money would buy the impoverished country 130,000 tons of maize, which could feed the entire population of 24 million for 13 days.
According to an informed source, the North Korean government started repair work on the Towers of Eternal Life that are found at all major crossroads nationwide after Kim's death. It was to change the slogan "Our great leader Kim Il-sung is eternally with us" to "Our great leader Kim Il-sung and dear leader Kim Jong-il are eternally with us."
There are over 3,000 such towers across North Korea. The one in Pyongyang's Kumsong Street stands 92.5 m tall. The source said the cost of removing the towers' granite stone tablets and replacing them is $25 million, or an average of W9.3 million per tower (US$1=W1,131).
A 23-m-tall statue of Kim Jong-il erected in Mansudae on April 13 is estimated to have cost $10 million, which includes the repair cost of the statue of Kim Il-sung which already stood there, the source said. Kim Il-sung is now dressed in a suit, not in party uniform, and sports glasses.
A Unification Ministry official said the aim was to depict age difference between father and son. Such work is being carried out across the nation. There are some 80 large statues of Kim Il-sung and over 20,000 smaller ones nationwide.
The source said the regime spent more than $1 million embalming Kim Jong-il's body because it had to fly in embalmers from Russia and import a special glass casket. Regular maintenance -- the body needs to be retrieved every two weeks to apply antiseptic -- is expected to cost $2.5 million a year.
New leader Kim Jong-un also ordered massive renovation work on the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun when he changed its name from Kumsusan Memorial Palace, where the bodies of the older two Kims lie in state. A new marble floor was laid and grass was planted in the square in front of the palace, which cost $4.5 million, according to the source.
The Worker Party Politburo on Jan. 12, two weeks after Kim Jong-il's funeral, announced four major measures to commemorate Kim Jong-il: preserve his body, erect statues, re-name his birthday "Kwangmyongsong Day," and build more towers of eternal life across the country.
North Korea has reportedly spent another $500,000 on new badges with the faces of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, and is creating mosaic murals portraying the first two leaders throughout the country.