March 22, 2008
Kim Jung-Il’s dictatorial taste in cinema, cuisine, and above all public sculpture remains deeply mysterious, witness the fusion of folk culture and socialist realism in the Lunar Rabbit Zodiac Memorial installed at Pyongyang’s uninhabitable 105 story Pyramid Hotel. While a symphony orchestra can be sent to the DPRK in reasonable expectation of returning unscathed from a state banquet, rabbits are another matter
That’s why Easter brings little joy to Karl Szmolinsky, bereft of his prize winning pet, Robert der Grosse, the largest rabbit in recorded history. Last year, the 23 pound Prussian Giant Grey, scarcely shorter than Kim Jung-Il, fell victim to his aberrant public diplomacy as Robert and 11 companions were dispatched to Kim’s petting zoo “with the aim of setting up a breeding program to alleviate famine”. Instead, the uberbunny ended up on the table at the diminutive Dear Leader’s 2007 birthday banquet.
Der Spiegel reported the MeisterkaninchenzÃ¼chter of Brandenburg, having already sent Robert der Grosse east, was due to follow as Kim Jung Il’s guest to set up a state-of-the-art rabbit warren, but received a last minute call from a DPRK official canceling the trip. When pressed, North Korea’s Berlin embassy issued a denial of any alleged lepicide, but declared the rabbits fate a secret of state.
The news leaked never the less. Several dozen foreign guests were invited to the banquet, and several commented on the generous portions”Herr Szmolinsky’s better efforts yield upwards of seven kilograms of meat. Which is why, keen to alleviate hunger in the impoverished country, he gave the DPRK a thousand Euro discount on the breeding stock shipment. In 2006, Szmolinsky told Der Spiegel Online, “I’ve sent them 12 rabbits so far, they’re in a petting zoo for now.” But on learning of their liquidation, said, “North Korea won’t be getting any more rabbits from me, they don’t even need to bother to ask .”
Absent the Hermit Kingdom Hasenpfepper fiend’s orgy of lagomorphagy, the eight females and four bucks could have produced 60 bunnies a year. If fed properly: ” I feed them everything—grain, carrots, a lot of cabbages. At the moment they’re getting kale,” said Szmolinsky of the winter fare of his 50 surviving charges, adding philosophically: “You can’t hang on to them…They cost a lot to feed.”
Some fear Hollywood animal rights militants may escalate the culinary atrocity into a casus belli involving the dreaded Acme Products Corporation, whose retaliatory arsenal puts Kim’s plutonium hobby to shame. There are other powers in the region, and Beijing, seeped in Manchu game cookery and anxious to provide hungry Olympians healthier fare than roast duck, may have infiltrated Kim’s kitchen, for Szmolinsky reports “China is sending a delegation to inspect my animals. “
Though Robert der Grosse has vanished, the demarche hare leaves behind a kale-munching dynasty. The young pretender Robert II, safe in his hutch in the March of Brandenburg, growing rapidly, has begun to twitch his nostrils towards the unending swathe of edible steppe extending Eastward from the Elbe to the Yalu.
Russell Seitz blogs at Adamant