In February 1974, Jang Kil Bu, mother of fallen anti-Japanese revolutionary fighter Ma Tong Hui, died, and the officials preparing her funeral service found that she had no family members to mourn for her. Her son, daughter and daughter-in-law had all fallen in the struggle for national liberation.
The officials were at a loss what to do, for it was the national custom that children of the deceased receive the condolers and hold the funeral.
They decided to ask Kim Il Sung for advice.
“You have arranged for a State funeral for Jang Kil Bu,” they said, “but we have a problem selecting mourners. You know she has no children.”
The President looked out of the window in silence. After a while, he said with regret that she might well have lived to be 100, but died before her time.
In fact, Jang had lived to 91, under the special care of Kim Il Sung.
Kim Il Sung then volunteered to act as the senior mourner and asked generals of guerrilla origin to be the junior mourners.
“That would be unprecedented,” said an official.
But the President said firmly that he would do.
Next day the condolers were surprised to see five “sons” in generals’ uniforms and five “daughters-in-law” dressed in white mourning standing beside Jang’s coffin.