You can be forgiven for thinking that unicorns only exist in medieval fables and modern-day cartoons. North Korean scientists say you are wrong.
On Thursday, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the North Korea’s government mouthpiece, said scientists “reconfirmed” the location of the burial site of the unicorn ridden by King Dongmyeong, the founding father of the ancient Korean kingdom of Goguryeo (37 BC-668 AD).
The unicorn’s grave was rediscovered near a temple in the capital Pyongyang, with a rectangular rock engraved with the words ‘Unicorn Lair’ at its entrance, according to the report. The report did not elaborate on what further evidence of the royal unicorn’s existence was discovered.
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Like most news reports from North Korea, even unicorns are used to underscore the legitimacy of the current regime. “The discovery proves that Pyongyang was a capital city of Ancient Korea as well as Koguryo (Goguryeo) Kingdom,” the report quoted Jo Hui Sung, director of the History Institute of the National Academy of Sciences, as saying.
King Dongmyeong’s biography is half history, half myth. As the legend goes, Kongmyeong was born from an egg impregnated by sunlight and united the tribes left in disarray after the collapse of the Chinese Western Han dynasty. His line ruled over the Korean peninsula for seven centuries until the return of the Chinese under the Tang.
The North Korean news agency does not have much of a reputation for factual accuracy. When the country’s former dictator Kim Jong Il died in December 2011, it reported a rock carving glowing brightly and ice near his presumed birthplace to have cracked “so loud, it seemed to shake the Heavens and the Earth” in mourning of the Dear Leader. While he was alive, Kim reportedly invented the hamburger, wrote 1,500 books in three years while at university, and shot eleven holes-in-one the first time he played golf (a feat verified by his 17 bodyguards).
Looking back at those reports, unicorns don’t seem that far off.