Rachmawati Soekarnoputri, a daughter of Indonesia’s founding president Soekarno, has defended her decision to give North Korean leader Kim Jong-un an award for resisting neo-imperialism.
Rachmawati’s announcement last week that her Soekarno Education Foundation would honour Kim has sparked criticism and even ridicule at home and abroad.
“I think he deserves the award because he has been consistent in opposing neo-colonialism, like his grandfather Kim Il-sung did,” Rachmawati said, adding that the prize would be given some time in September.
The elder Kim, the founder of the North Korean regime, received the same award from the Soekarno foundation in 2001. He died in 1994.
The United Nations special rapporteur on North Korea, Marzuki Darusman, said in February that North Koreans risked being sent to a detention camp without trial for watching South Korean films, contacting relatives overseas or even being late for work.
Rachmawati said she considered unfavourable media reports about Kim Jong-un in the media to be “Western propaganda.” .
“Soekarno himself was called a dictator, but he wasn’t,” his daughter said.
Rachmawati’s announcement was greeted with incredulity by some.
“This is a joke, right?” said one online commentator. “The award goes to a dictator who kills his own population either through starvation or in concentration camps?!”
Other recipients include Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Indian independence campaigner Mahatma Gandhi and former Indonesian president Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie.
Soekarno was an Indonesian independence leader who declared himself president in 1945, and ruled until he was ousted in 1967.
Rachmawati said she had been appointed Asia-Pacific honorary chairwoman of the Korea Reunification Preparation Committee, a group founded in North Korea.
Indonesia has maintained friendly relations with the reclusive state.
Rachmawati’s sister, Megawati Soekarnoputri, visited North Korea in 2002 when Megawati was president.
Rachmawati is a vocal critic of the government of President Joko Widodo and Megawati.