01/18/2012 06:52 EST | Updated 03/19/2012 05:12 EDT

North Korean Mourners: They Laughed Until They Were Jailed

What would we do without North Korea?

Yeah, it's an awful regime, and most of us would hate to live there.

But you gotta admit it has entertaining qualities, even if there's difficulty believing such horrors are possible.

What goes on in North Korea can make you laugh and despair at the same time.

The latest news from that hermit regime is that citizens are being sent to jail for not showing enough grief at the death of Kim Jong-il.

According to a South Korean publication, Daily NK, which is usually pretty accurate about what goes on in NK: "Authorities are handing down six-month sentences in a labor-training camp to those who didn't participate in gatherings to mourn the death of Dear Leader Kim Jong-il."

And the same sentence is dished out to those who did attend organized grief sessions, "but didn't weep hard enough, or faked their tears, or didn't seem genuine."

Amnesty International has estimated 40% of those sent to labour camps don't walk out when their entence is done. They are carried out, feet first, dead of malnutrition.

Personally, I suspect Kim Jong-un, successor to his dad and grandfather in the kingbird seat, might consider jailing citizens who aren't overjoyed at his elevation.

In fact, any North Korean charged with laughing in relief at the death of il, might have an acceptable defence claiming his laughs were of joy at the inauguration of un.

Kim Jong-il's embalmed remains are apparently going on permanent display alongside his dad's corpse in Pyongyang's Kumsusan Memorial Palace. Lenin's corpse in the tomb on Moscow's Red Square, is the longest lasting of such bodies, dating back to his death in 1924.

But Lenin's body has been in for repairs so many times that it's uncertain how much of him remains him, and is not flesh-coloured plastic. In 1924 an electric pump was installed in his body to keep it sufficiently cool.

Mao's corpse can still be viewed in Beijing, but Stalin was removed from a glass case beside Lenin, and buried eight years after his death in 1953. By then he'd been denounced by Nikita Khrushchev.

Neither Beijing nor Russia appreciates quips about their penchant for embalming sainted leaders.

As for North Korea, how can one not be amused at their late leader who played one game of golf in his life and finished 38 strokes under par, shooting 11 holes in one?

At age 28, Kim Jong-un has big shoes to fill, but Pyongyang press agents have only recently proclaimed him a genius and made him a general. We know his dad learned to walk three weeks after being born, and was talking in eight weeks.

We are also told that while attending univeristy, Km Jong-il wrote 1,500 books and composed six operas, and designed the 170-metre Tower of the Juche Idea on Taedong river. He also learned to change the weather by the intensity of his brain power.

You've gotta admit that these aren't unsubstantial talents.

I feel some association with the Kim family -- not because I was once a soldier fighting against their efforts to include South Korea into their orbit -- but because Kim Jong-il's birthday, Feb. 16, acclaimed as "The Day of the Lodestar," is the same as mine.

You may not believe this, but I have yet to compose my first opera.