Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership
Kim Jong Il arrived in Ulan Ude on 23 August (Tuesday), greeted at the railway station by various local officials. KJI is expected to meet with Russian Federation President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday (24 August). On Tuesday, KJI indulged in one of his favorite past times, swimming, on this occasion in a pool of water pumped from Lake Baikal. KJI took a dip with a local elected official, then cruised the lake and enjoyed a dinner of regional dishes. Later in the day he toured Ulan Ude’s aircraft factory. Radio Netherlands reports:
Kim’s armoured train earlier pulled into the traditionally Buddhist city of Ulan-Ude where he is expected to hold talks with Medvedev on Wednesday in an apparent bid to win Russian aid for his isolated state amid food shortages.
Russian officials have pulled out all the stops for the high-profile visit which has seen Kim ease his way across Siberia along the famed Trans-Siberian railway from the Pacific since crossing the border into Russia at the weekend.
Amid unprecedented security involving dozens of guards and North Korean snipers, the reclusive Kim was taken to the small village of Turka on the picturesque shores of Lake Baikal, a regional official told AFP.
There he took a swim in the pool filled with Lake Baikal water which locals believe has medicinal powers and gives bathers vital energy and health, he told AFP. “It is considered sacred,” said the official, who asked not to be named.
Kim was also given a boat ride across the lake and was offered local delicacies like the endemic omul fish and traditional Buryat dish of meat dumplings known as buuza.
World famous for its dramatic beauty, Lake Baikal contains around a fifth of the world’s fresh water and is home to a variety of endemic species.
Kim also visited the Soviet-era Ulan-Ude aviation plant making assault jets and helicopters. “It was a good day,” said another local official involved with the visit, noting the straight-faced Kim sported his trademark sunglasses.
In an apparent nod to Kim’s concerns about personal safety, the Kremlin imposed a virtual blanket ban on information about Kim’s plans and itinerary.
Kim is set to meet Medvedev for a rare summit in the eastern Siberian city 5,550 kilometres (3,450 miles) east of Moscow on Wednesday, with the talks expected to focus on Pyongyang’s nuclear programme, energy and food shortages in the isolated state.
Back in the DPRK, the country welcomed a Russian military delegation, among other visitors. KCNA reported on on 22 August of the arrival (among others) of “a delegation of the Eastern Military District of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation headed by Commander of the district Konstantin Sidenko.” Kyodo News, citing ITAR-TASS, reports:
Itar-Tass said a Russian military delegation headed Adm. Konstantin Sidenko, commander of troops of the Eastern Military District, arrived in North Korea earlier in the day for a five-day visit.
Citing the Russian Defense Ministry, the report said, ”The agenda of the visit envisages meetings with the top officers of the Korean People’s Army in order to have consultations seeking to resume and develop military and naval cooperation.” It said the visit is also intended ”to negotiate probable dates and the scenario of Russian-North Korean humanitarian exercises and to exchange courtesy visits of Russian and North Korean warships.”
The two sides ”will discuss prospects for cooperation between the ground troops of the countries, probable joint exercises and trainings for the search and rescue of ships in distress and the aid to people in natural disasters.”
For a glimpse of Kim Jong Il, spots and all, one might wish to rely on images taken and released by non-DPRK media sources. Chosun Ilbo reports that DPRK media has edited KJI’s liver spots and other blemishes from photos it releases. It seems that the DPRK has imported the practice of the airbrushed celebrity.
The most conspicuous picture was shown on CCTV and features Kim in Yangzhou in the Chinese province of Jiangsu on May 23. But in a photo released on May 28 by the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency, which it claimed shows Kim inspecting Huichon Power Station, he has no liver spots on his face. Another image shows him inspecting a fish farm on June 2, again without liver spots.
But in a photo taken by a Xinhua news agency cameraman, which shows Kim meeting with Chinese official Li Yuanchao in Pyongyang on June 13, he has liver spots again.
On his July 6 visit to Sinam Cooperative Farm in North Pyongan Province, the KCNA seems to have photoshopped his skin clean again.
But in a picture released by Chinese media on July 12, he has dark spots on his face again.