In August 1969, Chairman Kim Jong Il was in a region giving on-site guidance.
One day an official came to see him, and found a maid wiping away her tears.
He asked her curiously, “What’s the matter with you?”
“When I entered his room I saw Comrade Kim Jong Il doing his laundry. I tried to take the laundry from him, but he told me not to. What shall I do?”
The official went into his room. Chairman Kim Jong Il was hanging shirts and socks on chairs in a well-ventilated place.
Chairman Kim Jong Il poured some scorched-rice tea with chips of ice floating on it from a thermos, and offered it to him.
It was Chairman Kim Jong Il’s favourite tea. In the summer he would drink it, saying it was particularly good then.
The official asked him:
“Do you have to do the laundry yourself? You can have a maid do such things for you.”
Laughing, he said that many people were minding his private life that day.
“We are not nosing into your private life. We just hope that you don’t do such menial work.”
Chairman Kim Jong Il laughed more loudly.
“How can I break a habit from my childhood?”
The official urged him at least not to do the laundry.
Chairman Kim Jong Il asked him for what he should break the habit.
“You are a man respected by the whole people of the country.”
Remarking that the official would make a prince of him,
Chairman Kim Jong Il asked:
“When do you feel most upset?”
As the official did not reply for a moment, Chairman Kim Jong Il continued:
I feel most upset, for example, in today’s circumstances, in other words, when people try to accord me special treatment, regarding me as someone privileged. Words fail to express my feelings at such moments. If I must express them, I feel pain, as if I’m sitting on a cushion of needles.
The official realized that his offer had caused Chairman Kim Jong Il pain in his heart. He was embarrassed.
Chairman Kim Jong Il continued as follows:
Our leader Kim Il Sung regards the people as above himself, and says that he is their son. That is why he lives a humble and simple life, always sharing weal and woe with them. My principle in life differs little from his. Above me, Kim Jong Il, are the people, and Kim Jong Il is their son–this is my principle in life. In performing my proper duties as the people’s son, I have never expected any special treatment or privilege, nor will I do so in the future either. It is my greatest pleasure to live a humble life as others do. So please do not offer me any special treatment or privilege, like asking me to have someone else do my laundry for me. Asking me to enjoy special treatment or privilege is tantamount to sitting me on a cushion of needles.