Despite continued famine in the country, North Korea leader Kim Jong Un gave 2 pounds of candy to every child in the country in honor of his Jan. 8 birthday, according to a report from state media. In other words, the story is probably fictional.
As Chosun Ilbo explains, leaders’ birthdays are traditionally marked in the dictatorship with gifts (or reports of gifts) of food and other needed goods. But the quality and quantity of those gifts have, unsurprisingly, been in decline at least in recent years in the country.
Here’s a description of the Santa Claus-like feat of logistics from the AFP, which wrote a straight-laced version of the story:
A radio report by the North Korean Central Broadcasting Station, monitored in Seoul on Monday, said Kim had mobilised aircraft to ensure that each child in the country aged 10 or under received the candy gift in time.
Villagers in outlying islands “exploded with joy” at the confectionery airlift, the report said.
The giving of “birthday candy” was started in 1980 by Kim’s grandfather and North Korea’s founding leader Kim Il-Sung.
According to the World Food Program, 1 in 3 children in North Korea are chronically “stunted” by poor nutrition. The country has regularly struggled to feed its own population (and relies on foreign food aid) since about 1 million people died in North Korea from hunger-related causes during a severe famine from 1994-1998.