North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

KJI’s Horseless Cart

Kim Jong Il stands next to his electric cart during a tour of the Taedonggang Combined Fruit Farm in Pyongyang in July 2011, along with NDC Vice-Chairman Jang Song Taek (2nd R) and Minister of People's Security Ri Myo'ng-su (R) (Photo: KCNA-Yonhap)

When Kim Jong Il looks around a factory or farm “for hours” during his guidance tours recently, he has taken to riding in a Guard Command-chauffered electric stretch cart.  According to JoongAng Ilbo KJI has utilized the  cart since December 2010.  KJI also rode in the cart during some of tours of Chinese factories in May 2011.  Christine Kim writes:

The electric cart first appeared in North Korean reports of Kim’s trips last year on Dec. 21 when he visited a mechanics factory, leading South Korean government officials to believe the cart was brought in from China after Kim’s trip there in October.

After then, the stretch cart was out of public view for roughly two months before returning to Kim’s side frequently in recent months.

The light-green vehicle was seen at a vegetable research facility in February this year and at the Amnok River Tire Factory in April.

The cart is believed to help with Kim’s mobility after his 2008 stroke.

The electric stretch cart features makeshift steps toward the front that are believed to help Kim get on and off the vehicle.

“Kim Jong-il doesn’t seem to have any abnormalities regarding his health right now,” a South Korean government official told the JoongAng Ilbo. “But seeing that he is using the electric cart, he seems to be having difficulty walking for an extended period of time due to his stroke’s aftereffects.”

The official also said that Kim has been active in recent days but has preferred locations where he is not required to walk long distances from his car.

If he must walk for a certain period of time, the dictator takes the electric cart with him inside the facility he is visiting.

Kim was not seen on field guidance trips from late May until early July, which led to suspicions about his ailing health.

One of the first instances of his using an electric cart occurred during his visit to the Taedonggang Tile Factory in July 2009.

Kim Jong Il rides in a different electric cart during a visit to the Taedonggang Tile Factory in east Pyongyang during July 2009 (Photo: KCNA-Yonhap)

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