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In the Chosun of Peace We Enthuastically Stand Beside Tractors…

… because there is no fuel and all the unicorns are in their stables.

Kim Jong-il may have been born under a double rainbow. He was not, as far as we have been told thus far, born in a unicorn stable. There is, however, every possibility now that the Juche propaganda machine soon will be peddling this in an attempt to ascribe supernatural authority to his third son and biscuit-eating successor, Kim Jong-eun.

For Juche archaeologists were reported to have discovered the remains of the preferred steeds of King Dongmyeong; 1st Century BC king and founder of the Goguryeo Kingdom, the northern-most of the Three Kingdoms of Korea which persisted until the 7th Century AD.

Some points to clear-up, though. These creatures are not the horned horses which Rick Deckard dreamt of, but the ‘qilin’ or ‘kirin’ of regional folklore and a auspicious chimera of deer, ox and horse.

Nor was this a discovery from last week, or even evidence of qilin/kirin.

Sixiang Wang, a PhD student at Columbia University whose focus is Korea-China relations from the 13th to the 16th centuries, wrote in to provide some context for the announcement. North Korea actually announced this discovery in 2011, but only recently released the announcement in English. The English release poorly translated the name of a historical location, Kiringul, as “Unicorn Lair,” a very evocative name for Westerners. But in Korean history, the name Kiringul has a rather different significance. Kiringul is one of the sites associated with King Tongmyŏng, the founder of Koguryŏ, an ancient Korean kingdom. The thrust of the North Korean government’s announcement is that it claims to have discovered Kiringul, and thus to have proven that Pyongyang is the modern site of the ancient capital of Koguryŏ.

So, far from announcing the discovery of mythical creatures, Juche archaeologists would appear to have been attempting to designate Pyongyang as the rightful inheritor of a classical Korean kingdom which, coincidentially, took in large tracts of South Korea.