Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership
Kim Jong Il’s (Kim Cho’ng-il’s) last public appearance was a guidance tour of the 8 February Vinalon Complex which was reported by DPRK media on, or around, 8 August. The country has undertaken reconstruction and recovery work from typhoons and floods, which have killed over 30 and caused extensive damage to homes, agriculture and infrastructure. KCBS reported on 11 August that “a struggle to heal from the aftermaths of the consecutive natural disasters is actively being waged nationwide.” To that effect, according to Asahi Shimbun, DPRK traders in China were ordered around 10 August to purchase 5,000 tons of grain a piece or “what appears to be over 100,000 tons.” Meanwhile, overseas agents of the Ministry of State Security are being recalled to Pyongyang because many of them are under investigation for hiding money and other assets in their assigned countries.
This deluge of activity might demand the attention of the micromanaging party center, who is allegedly reading his briefings and ‘phoning instructions from his yacht somewhere off the country’s east coast. Yonhap, via Korea Herald, reports:
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has been enjoying sailing on his yacht along the east coast in recent weeks, a person familiar with the issue said Thursday, as his country is struggling to recover from devastating floods.
Kim has been sailing in waters off a coastal villa, where he has been staying since August for a summer holiday, as he did in previous years, the person said on condition of anonymity. He was not authorized to speak to the media on intelligence matters on the record. He did not elaborate on the type of boat and who accompanied the leader during the cruise.
The development underscored that Kim’s lavish lifestyle has not changed despite international sanctions banning the sale of yachts and other luxury goods to North Korea to try to squeeze Kim and his ruling elites.
Despite years of economic difficulty and food shortages, Kim has engaged in the gift politics of showering his top aides and other elites with luxury goods to win their loyalty.
Kim’s summer holiday comes as the North is working to recover from the floods in the recent past that left dozens of people dead, injured or missing, while destroying thousands of homes and submerging or washing away tens of thousands of hectares of farmland.
There was no report in the North’s state media on whether he traveled to the flood-stricken areas.
KJI does not necessarily restrict his yachting activities to the summer months. When he visited an Office #39-managed seafood plant in Ku’mya County, South Hamgyo’ng, during February 2010, he traveled by boat. In 2009, Italian authorities seized two Azimut yachts purchased for KJI by European and Asian front companies.
One of KJI’s South Hamgyo’ng residences is down the coast from a KPA Navy (Korean People’s Navy) station, under its East Sea Command. When the Chinese PLA Navy visited Wo’nsan during 4-8 August, the KPA Navy Song and Dance Ensemble participated in a performance with their PRC counterparts. A Chinese military blogger has published over a dozen photographs of the ensemble; some are candid shots of the women prior to going on stage, and others are of the performance.