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Flowers and North Korea

Feng Li / Getty Images

A billboard image of the Kimilsungia flower is seen on the street on April 3 in Pyongyang, North Korea.

The Kimilsungia is a variety of orchid named in honor of North Korea's 'Great Leader', Kim Il-sung. The North Korean government says that the "immortal flower" is "blooming everywhere on the five continents."

Kim Jong-il, the son and successor of Kim Il-sung, explained the origin of the flower's name in a 2005 speech which had the catchy title Kimilsungia Is an Immortal Flower That has Bloomed in the Hearts of Mankind in the Era of Independence. In this extract, Kim Jong-il recalls a visit he and his father paid to Indonesian President Sukarno in 1965.

When visiting the Bogor Botanical Garden, I felt more deeply how much President Sukarno respected and revered President Kim Il Sung. With a long history, this world-renowned botanical garden was well worth visiting. With flowers of the orchid family, cactuses and other rare tropical flowers in full bloom, I felt as if I were visiting a world flower fair. When we approached a display in a greenhouse of the botanical garden, Sukarno took a pot of flowers from the director of the botanical garden, and asked President Kim Il Sung how he liked the flowers. The director explained that it was a variety of the orchid family a famous florist of the garden had bred after long, painstaking research, and it was a peculiar flower in that it blossomed twice a year, being in bloom for two to three months. After looking at the flower for a while, President Kim Il Sung said that it was very beautiful and expressed thanks to his host for showing him such a fine flower. Then, Sukarno said sincerely that he wanted the flower to be named after President Kim Il Sung. The director of the botanical garden, too, expressed his wish to call it Kimilsungia. President Kim Il Sung gently declined their suggestion, saying that he had done nothing so special and that there was no need to name a flower after him. Sukarno replied, "No. You have rendered enormous services to mankind, so you deserve a high honour." He refused to withdraw his request. Back in Jakarta, he repeatedly brought the matter to us. On receiving a report about it, President Kim Il Sung said that if President Sukarno and the Indonesian people wished it so sincerely, he would accept the suggestion as a token of their esteem for our people. This is how a flower named after a great man for the first time in the thousands of years of human history came into the world.

Read the full speech. On the occasion of his 46th birthday, Kim Jong-il, too, had a flower named after him: the Kimjongilia.