Kim Jong-Il Skimped on Party Favors for His Super-Sweet 69th Birthday

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Photo: Park-Ji Hwan/AFP/Getty Images

In the past, supreme leader Kim Jong-Il has celebrated his birthdays, otherwise known as "Kimjongilia Festival," with luxury gifts — a token of his appreciation for letting him dictate the country into ruin. But despite lavish public events like a flower show featuring specially cultivated begonias called Kimjongilia, and state media's protestations of tearful loyalty as a "'solar halo' rose above 'Dear Leader's mythical birthplace at Mount Paedku,'" sources say the usual handouts were nowhere to be found. North Korea's near-bankrupt regime struggled to hide the enormity of its food and foreign-exchange shortages, but the party favors, "designed to inspire loyalty and confidence in the ability of the regime," failed to materialize, says the Telegraph. Authorities had promised a day's worth of food to its 24 million people — presumably so they won't look so emaciated — in the days leading up to the festivities, but failed to hand them out. Ruling party officials in the northeast also didn't receive their gifts of up to ten days' rations of rice and corn.

The country, where 5 million people are facing food shortages, appears to be saving up for next year's party: the 100-year anniversary of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung's birth. Which might be why North Korean diplomats have reportedly been asking for food aid when meeting with foreign officials. But not every partygoer left empty-handed. Kim Jong-un, the heir apparent, was recently promoted to vice-chairman of the defense commission, making the 28- or 29-year-old the second most powerful official in the dictatorship.

Kim Jong-il celebrates 69th birthday [Telegraph UK]
NKorea marks Kim's birthday amid economic hardship [AP via HuffPo]
Leader’s Son Reportedly Elevated to N. Korea’s No. 2 [NYT]