To mark the 104th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung on Friday, state newspaper Rodong Sinmun made a bold proclamation: Even foreign religious leaders think Kim is comparable to a god.
It’s not so surprising that a North Korean state paper would suggest that Kim was a deity – the founder of the North Korean state and his family are revered within the country with a devotion that approaches religious fervour. But what was more surprising was the reported source of this comparison: American evangelist Billy Graham.
Graham is an icon for millions of Christians and a well-known figure in the United States. His relationship to North Korea is perhaps not well-known, but it is hardly a secret. Despite this, the quotes attributed to Graham by Rodong Sinmum, first reported by NK News, are startling.
The article quotes Graham as effusively praising Kim and saying he was impressed by the lack of homelessness and drug addiction in North Korea.
“Having observed the Supreme Leader Kim Il-sung’s unique political leadership, I can only think that he is God,” Graham is quoted as saying. “If god is the leader of another world, saviour and ruler of the past and future life that exists in our imagination, I acknowledge the Supreme Leader Kim Il-sung is the god who rules today’s human world.”
Later in the article, Graham is quoted as expressing understanding that the North Koreans did not allow him to preach: “Kim is this world’s god. Why would a country like this need the Bible?”
It’s unclear whether Graham actually said anything like this – there certainly appears to be no other record of it and North Korean state media is not known for its accuracy.
Representatives of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association expressed bewilderment over the alleged comments. “While Billy Graham made two trips to North Korea and knew the elder president Kim Il-sung , Mr Graham has not said anything like this,” said Jeremy Blume, spokesman for Graham. “These words do not even remotely resemble Mr Graham’s theology or his language.”
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SOURCE: South China Morning Post