Despite concerns that many North Korean citizens face severe hardship, the leader of the regime Kim Jong-Un appears to be living an incredibly luxurious life. Just last year, the national newspaper Rodong Sinmun warned the North Korean people to brace themselves for a period of difficulty, claiming that they must persevere because “the road to revolution is long and arduous”.
The paper is reported to have said:“We may have to go on an arduous march, during which we will have to chew the roots of plants once again.”This rhetoric is reminiscent of the language used to describe “The Arduous March” – a period of extreme economic hardship and severe famine which occurred between 1994 and 1998. Out of a total population of around 24 million, as many as 3 million people are thought to have died during this period, as food yields were hit by droughts and floods leading to mass starvation.
In contrast, leader Kim Jong-Un does not appear to be in danger of anything arduous, as reports over the years have consistently painted a picture of wealth and extravagance. A 2013 report presented to the South Korean parliament claimed that the North Korean regime had increased its imports of musical instruments, cosmetics, handbags, leather products, watches and cars made in Japan and China. The report listed purchases such as electronic goods costing $37 million and luxury watches costing a further $8.2 million.Jong-Un is also reputed to be a lover of fine wine.
The South Korean report mentions that the dictator’s regime purchased bottles of high-end alcohol which cost the state $30 million. Reports have even said that Jong-Un once boasted to his late father’s former chef Kenji Fujimoto that he could drink 10 bottles of Bordeaux in one night. Former basketball star Dennis Rodman also commented on the quality of alcohol present at the leader’s residence.“If you drink a bottle of tequila, it’s the best tequila. Everything you want, he has the best.”“He’s got 50 to 60 people around him all the time – just normal people, drinking cocktails and laughing the whole time.”
Rodman was commenting on what is known as the leader’s “pleasure palace” – a luxury residence located on the coast of the port city of Wonsan. The former NBA (National Basketball Association) star visited North Korea in 2013 and was very vocal about his interest in the country and its leader, later describing Jong-Un as a “good friend”. After spending a week on the private island, Rodman went on to describe the leader’s lifestyle as a “seven-star” party of endless cocktails and jet-skis and even said the island was “like going to Hawaii or Ibiza, but he’s the only one that lives there.”
The exclusive retreat features luxury villas, surrounding a private palace reserved for Kim Jong-un. It has a boat-shed for yachts and jet-skis, and nearby is a private railway station, an air strip and a sports stadium. Ermano Furlanis, another chef who had served the previous North Korean leader, also recalled the lavish provisions available on the island, including a pontoon boat with a swimming pool in the middle, and a building several-storeys high next door, with water slides on top. Now, thanks to satelite images, we can paint a vivid picture of Kim Jong-Un’s luxurious lifestyle.
Here, the leader’s yacht can be seen moored next to the island. There are varied descriptions of the exact nature of the yacht. Some have suggested that it is a Princess 95MY – a 95 foot luxury yacht believed to cost around £5.6million, while Denis Rodman described a larger 200 foot yacht which was a “cross between a ferry and a Disney boat”.
The above pictures show further images of the island, including what are believed to be swimming pools and even a personal railway station. In the bottom right corner of the last picture, what appears to be a train on a track can be seen, suggesting that the island has its own mini-station. In addition to this island paradise, Kim Jong-Un also ordered the construction of a “world class” luxury ski resort which is thought to have cost approximately £21 million.
The resort features 70 miles of multi-level ski runs, a hotel, a heliport and cable cars.Kim Jong-Un’s persistent penchant for excess continues amidst an increasingly hostile situation between North Korea and the US. In latest moves, both countries have shown displays of military might with North Korea even threatening war. Whether the situation will escalate further remains to be seen. Sadly, this peek into Jong-Un’s lifestyle might suggest that he could well be insulated from the consequences of his decisions, due to the extremely privileged lifestyle he leads, leaving the North Korean people to bear the brunt of his actions.