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Burmese officials have been assisting the North Korean embassy in Rangoon in seizing and destroying a biography of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, written by a Burmese.
More than 500 copies of ‘Kim Jong-Il or the Beloved Leader of North
Korea’ were taken off the shelves and destroyed in front of the author, Hein Latt. The North Korean embassy rejected a number of allegations made in the book, such as the leader’s height and eating habits, a Rangoon publisher and friend of Htein Latt said.
This was despite apparent approval from Burma’s notorious strict censor board, through which all written material is required to pass before it is published.
“They seized the books and we understood that no compensation was given for
them,” he said. “They just impounded the books and destroyed them. It seems they [Burmese government] are a bit afraid.”
He said that the book “includes facts from articles published by Western nations as well as from North Korea,” and that the embassy rejected some of the contents.
“For example, they could not accept the facts that [Kim jong-il’s] height is five feet two inches, and he not only loves movies but also produces them. They don’t want anything that indicates a bit of pessimism and they would not accept anything that might affect his status.”
The embassy also rejected accusations that the North Korean leader has a penchant for exotic cuisine: he is known to eat only simple food in front of visiting dignitaries as a testament to his modest upbringing, and the embassy flatly denied that his cupboards bore more than basic wheat products.
Htein Latt reportedly lost two million kyat (US$2,000) as a result of the book’s recall. Members of Burma’s literary world say it is the first time in living memory that a foreign embassy has destroyed locally-published the books.
North Korea’s foreign minister, Pak Ui-chun, arrived in Burma today on a four-day visit as the highest-level delegate from the reclusive state to travel to Burma since bilateral relations were normalised in 2007.
The two countries rank at the tail-end of the majority of the world’s political and media freedom barometers, but relations appear to be warming and North Korea has been accused of supplying Burma with advanced military hardware.