Kim No. 3 Hopes to Be Triumph of Korean Family Planning; Kim Jong Il's Death at the Age of 69 Has Thrown the World's Eye on One of the World's Poorest and Most Dangerous Nuclear Power. David James Examines His Life and Legacy

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), December 20, 2011 | Go to article overview

Kim No. 3 Hopes to Be Triumph of Korean Family Planning; Kim Jong Il's Death at the Age of 69 Has Thrown the World's Eye on One of the World's Poorest and Most Dangerous Nuclear Power. David James Examines His Life and Legacy


Byline: David James

* IM Jong Il reportedly adored the James Bond films - of which he owned every one - and at 5ft 3in tall with bouffant hair, sunglasses and nuclear ambitions, he seemed to the world like a stereotypical Bond villain.

The late dictator inherited the economically-struggling nation of North Korea from his father Kim Il Sung, who founded the country in 1948 and led it into isolation, creating the cult of personality that both he and his son would use to rule.

Yet for most international observers it is Kim the son who is the greater villain. During his 17 years in power, he left his people to suffer and starve while he used the 24m-population state's scarce resources to build it into a military and nuclear power.

Despite being a poor nation, Kim turned North Korea into one of the world's most militarised countries with a standing army of 1.1m people, nuclear weapons and a space programme. It has the world's fifth largest army.

His policy of "songun" or army first was created after the fall of the Soviet Union, on whose support its communist neighbour had been dependent. An estimated two million people are thought to have died of starvation as a result.

Yet while his people suffered, Kim reportedly lived a life of luxury. His former cook wrote a book detailing the dictator's love of cigars, cognac and gourmet cuisine.

The cook, who used the pseudonym Kenji Fujimoto, claimed he was Kim's personal sushi chef for a decade, writing that Kim had a wine cellar stocked with 10,000 bottles, and that, in addition to sushi, Kim ate shark's fin soup - a rare delicacy - weekly.

"His banquets often started at midnight and lasted until morning. The longest lasted for four days," the chef was quoted as saying.

Another account of Kim's lavish lifestyle came from Konstantin Pulikovsky, a former Russian presidential envoy who wrote the book The Orient Express, about Kim's train trip through Russia in July and August 2001.

Mr Pulikovsky, who accompanied the North Korean leader, said Kim's 16-car private train was stocked with crates of French wine. Live lobsters were delivered in advance to stations.

The dictator had other loves, including basketball and movies. He is reported to have had a collection of 20,000 films, including those Bond movies.

A South Korean film director even claimed Kim kidnapped him and his movie star wife in the late 1970s, spiriting them back to North Korea to make movies for him for a decade before they managed to escape from their North Korean agents during a trip to Austria.

Kim was in no sense guaranteed to take over when his father, a revolutionary who led the fight for independence during the Korean War (1950, ceasefire 1953), died in 1994.

Despite being groomed for power by his father, international observers expected a power struggle but that never materialised.

It would emerge that Kim had spent years building up a power base of his own within the communist regime. He had also burnished his own story in a bid to stand alongside his father, a guerrilla revolutionary turned politician, in the eyes of the people.

According to the legend he created, he was born in a cabin on Mount Paekdu, one of Korea's most cherished sites, in 1942 - a birth heralded in the heavens by a pair of rainbows and a brilliant new star.

Soviet records, however, indicate he was born in Siberia in 1941.

Photographs of both Kims today hang in every public building in North Korea.

Kim was not only ambitious, building up the country's nuclear arms arsenal, carrying out nuclear tests that shocked the world and being willing to fire missiles over South Korea and Japan, but also a skilled negotiator. …

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Kim No. 3 Hopes to Be Triumph of Korean Family Planning; Kim Jong Il's Death at the Age of 69 Has Thrown the World's Eye on One of the World's Poorest and Most Dangerous Nuclear Power. David James Examines His Life and Legacy
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