Until recently, there had been little new in the northern part of the Korean Peninsula. North Koreans continue to starve, the country begs for food, and the barely fed prisoner-slaves (there are up to 200,000 political prisoners there) grow poppies to make heroin to provide state export revenues of $500 million to one billion annually. According to Bruce Klingner at the Heritage Foundation, “the total for legitimate exports is estimated at around $1 billion annually.” Still, it’s a very cheerful place according to state media, far superior to all countries other than China.
Little light escapes the black hole of the North Korea (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, DPRK), but Dear Leader Kim Jong-il has long been a cheerfully despotic narcissist, grandly fed according to his former chef who defected to Japan in 2001 and whose insights into Kim Jong-il are still highly regarded by intelligence officials:
Money was no object when it came to food. Fujimoto made shopping trips around the world to pick up ingredients – to Iran and Uzbekistan for caviar, to Denmark for pork, to Thailand for mangoes, durians and papayas. On a whim, Kim once sent Fujimoto to pick up a box of his favourite rice cakes, which were scented with mugwort and available only at a department store in Tokyo. Fujimoto later evaluated the trip and put the cost of each bite-size morsel at $120.
Kim’s food is always prepared with consummate skill and devotion:
Before cooking the rice, the kitchen staff would inspect each grain individually and discard any blemished by irregularities of shape or colour. He ate only the choicest foods and loved the fatty cut of tuna known as toro.
Sometimes Fujimoto would prepare sashimi using a trick he had learnt at Tsukiji, slicing so the vital organs were spared and the fish was served writhing on the platter.
Another of Kim Jong-il’s pleasures is his military. They seem quite prosperous and well fed.
The DPRK also readies to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Glorious Founder Kim il-Sung next year when, among other marvels, a “new” hotel is scheduled to open in Pyongyang. Construction began twenty-four years ago but met with “unexpected” delays:
Ryugyong Hotel, a glass tower spanning 105 storeys and rising 1,080 ft high, will partially open in April next year following decades of delays, according to reports.
The long-delayed opening will coincide with the 100th anniversary of the birth of the nation’s founder Kim Il-sung, with celebrations peaking on 15 April. It was in 1987 that the hotel – whose name means Capital of Willows – was first launched with the grandiose ambitions of creating the world’s tallest tower.
Then, the DPRK will enter an unprecedented era of prosperity and its goals for that year will be reached, as of course they must be; it has been decreed that the DPRK will become a great, powerful, and prosperous nation.
And, of course, the DPRK is (as has become customary) simultaneously preparing for more nuclear weapon and missile tests. Its uranium enrichment program seems to have been going well and to be more massive than previously thought. Last November, it shelled Yeonpyeong-do, an island claimed by South Korea (the Republic of Korea, ROK) and occupied by ROK military personnel and civilians.
Despite the things that don’t change much, there are some significant new developments in the current fruit and nut mix.