Creator of popular photo blog about Kim Jong Il says he will likely keep project going
Blog shows late North Korean leader looking at equipment, food and other objects
A copycat blog has already appeared showing similar images of Kim Jong Un
Most of us don’t know much about Kim Jong Il, the reclusive North Korean leader who died Saturday.
But thanks to a cult-favorite blog, we do know this: That country’s “Dear Leader” spent countless hours visiting stores, factories and plantations and gazing stoically from behind his trademark sunglasses upon various things – soldiers, machinery, livestock and lots and lots of food.
The Tumblr-hosted blog, “Kim Jong Il Looking at Things,” gathers propaganda photos of the departed dictator from the state-run Korean Central News Agency and has built a steady following since it was launched in October 2010. The founder of Tumblr, David Karp, even named it as one of his favorite sites.
The blog is run by João Rocha, 26, an art director for a Lisbon, Portugal design firm. Rocha said Monday he has about 375 unposted photos of Kim Jong Il in his archives and is leaning toward keeping the blog going.
“I don’t have a favorite but I like the ones where he’s smiling the best,” Rocha wrote in an e-mail to CNN. “There’s a certain humanity in them, I find.”
In the first 12 hours or so after Kim’s death was announced, the blog has gotten more than 1.4 million page views, up from an average monthly total of about 500,000, he said.
Rocha has posted a poll on his site’s Facebook page, asking fans whether he should continue the blog. As of Monday afternoon he had received more than 3,300 “yes” votes and fewer than 100 “nos.”
He said he got the idea for the blog last year after seeing a gallery of similar Kim Jong Il photos on the Boston Globe’s website. Rocha found the images “just too surreal to be true” and “thought it deserved a blog of its own.”
With rule of North Korea expected to pass to Kim’s son, Kim Jong Un, a copycat blog has already appeared showing similar images of the younger Kim. But Rocha doesn’t seem to mind.
“That’s how the Internet works. Out with the old and in with the new,” he wrote. Rocha doesn’t think the new blog’s subject carries the same ironic weight, though. “You need that absolute evil that Kim Jong Il personified so well to make it funny. Kim Jong Un lacks that.”
In the 14 months since he launched the blog, Rocha has posted hundreds of images of North Korea’s dictator, flanked by an ever-present entourage and peering at everything from bubble gum to sausage.
But asked what, if anything, his blog has revealed about North Korea and he draws a blank.
“They have very clean factories is probably the only thing I can say. The rest remains a mystery.”