There are many things named after the first leader of North Korea, Kim Il Sung, but Kimilsungia is one of the few that you can actually take home with you.
The story goes that Kim Il Sung travelled to Indonesia to meet President Sukarno (the socialist one) and they visited some botanical gardens. The North Korean President saw a flower that he liked, and Sukarno duly named it in his honour.
The flower is colourful and quite beautiful, growing from 30-70cm, and it’s possible to buy and grow it at home. I once purchased one five years ago, and my mum kept it going in the UK for a while!
Since 1998 there has been a Kimilsungia festival held to coincide with the Day of the Sun – the annual celebration of Kim Il Sung’s birthday – and it’s possible to buy Kimilsungia seeds at the festival. Travel companies, businesses and various friendship organisations send floral tributes during this festival; Young Pioneer Tours has, in fact, sent a contribution for the last eleven years.
There is also a plant named Kimjongilia (no prizes for guessing who it’s named after). The plant was dedicated to Kim Jong Il in 1988 on his 46th birthday, by a Japanese botanist by the name of Kamo Mototeru, and is said to represent the Juche ideology of North Korea.
Whilst there is no Kimjongilia festival, you can regularly see the flowers on display – and being gifted amongst Koreans – on the Day of the Shining Star (Kim Jong Il’s birthday). As with Kimilsungia and the Day of the Sun, businesses often dedicate bouquets and wreaths in Kim Jong Il’s memory.
In Rason it’s quite common to visit the Kimilsungia/Kimjongilia Flower House, where you can see them in bloom and even purchase bulbs.
There is currently no flower named for Kim Jong Un – but who knows what the future holds?