The sky turned red, the ice cracked, the snow ceased and a crane bowed: Kim Jong-il's death – the official version

Reclusive state tells its people that 'even nature was heartbroken' by Dear Leader's passing
  • @cliffordcoonan

So remarkable a figure was Kim Jong-il that "even nature is heartbroken" by his death. During his life, the North Korean dictator " blocked the howling wind of history", and when he died the weather was freakishly cold and the seas were stormy. His death caused waves to rise by up to three metres.

That, at least, is the version of events according to the KCNA, North Korea's official news agency, which admittedly is no stranger to hyperbole. This time, however, it has pulled out all the stops to mark the passing of the country's "Dear Leader".

When Kim Jong-il was born on the sacred mountain of Paekdu, a star rose above the spot and shone brightly, a double rainbow appeared and spring broke out spontaneously. Did we mention that his nativity was foretold by a swallow?

The KCNA line is that once the dreadful days surrounding Kim Jong-il's death are over, a "spring of prosperity under Socialism will surely come to the country thanks to the patriotic devotion of Kim Jong-il who blocked the howling wind of history till the last moments of his life".

And uncommonly bad weather prevailed over his last hours, KCNA reported. "In the morning of December 17 when he was on the train to make a journey of field guidance for the people the temperature was 4 to 7C lower than the average, making it the lowest this winter. "Seeing his dedication, in tears, the people would ask him to stop making any more journeys along snow-covered roads in cold weather and sitting up all night," KCNA pleaded. The sky turned red, it went on, and cracks appeared in frozen lakes. A Manchurian crane then bowed its head in grief.

It was with the help of the state media that Kim Jong-il succeeded in perpetuating the cult of personality built up around his father, Kim Il-sung. Known in official media as the "Lodestar of the 21st Century", Kim Jong-il had a photographic memory and his political writings and philosophy were reported and broadcast every day.

He wrote six operas in two years and hit 11 holes-in-one in the first round of golf he ever played. You wonder what he scored on the other seven. In the West, the image of Kim Jong-il is of a gourmand with a flying phobia, who travelled everywhere in a specially fitted Japanese-built train, with 21 carriages, lobster tanks and two armoured Mercedes cars.

Inside it, Kim Jong-il would quaff bottles of vintage Bordeaux, which he took to drinking after doctors made him give up Hennessy cognac. Meanwhile, outside, his people were starving in the frequent famines that blighted his reign.