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"He is the father of our nation and the sun that shines," intones the guides.Schools dedicate a room each to the father and son, in effect religious shrines where a heavily mythologised version of their lives is taught to millions of Korean children.But technological developments in the last few years have made that a possibility.Mobile phones, mini-cameras and recording devices are increasingly being smuggled out, and the dissenting voices of North Koreans themselves broadcast back in.Pyongyang, the Potemkin capital where the short and malnourished are reportedly weeded out for the benefit of foreign visitors, is better off than anywhere else, but even there, children obviously don't have enough to eat.The best-fed men in the history of the country are the two who have dominated its physical and psychological landscape: Kim Jong-il and his father, the nation's founder Kim il-Sung.The North's highest-ranking defector Hwang Jang-Yop estimated the death toll from North Korea's mid-1990s famine at between 1 million and 2.5 million people.Earlier this year the World Food Programme said that a third of the North's children are "chronically malnourished" and a quarter of its 24 million citizens need food aid.
Even before Kim's death, there were signs that change was coming. Until recently, employing North Koreans as reporters was considered far-fetched, even revolutionary.
Kim Jong-il preferred to travel by train and took his luxury carriages all the way to Moscow in 2001, when he reportedly had roast donkey and fresh lobsters flown to him every day.
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The intense cult woven by Kim Jong-il around himself and his father is perhaps the main reason why he survived for so long.
The brightest lights in Pyongyang's sickly, night-time pallor shine on the murals and giant statues of the two Kims dotted all around the city.