Getty ImagesAs personal chef and confidante to late North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, Kenji Fujimoto saw some pretty insane things.
Fujimoto (an alias) is the subject of a new profile in GQ by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Adam Johnson.
In it, he talks about the dictator’s inner circle and crazy parties, his own arrest and interrogation by the Japanese government, and his family’s imprisonment in one of the infamous North Korean “re-education camps.”
The entire nine-page interview is riveting and worth a read (you can find it here). But if you want to skim some of the juicier parts, here are the eight craziest takeaways from the interview:
- Kim’s palaces sounded like they were straight out of the ’80s: They were “decorated with cold marble, silver-braided bedspreads, ice purple paintings of kimilsungia blossoms, and ceilings airbrushed with the cran-apple mist of sunset, as if Liberace’s jet had crashed into Lenin’s tomb.”
- He had a sick swimming pool: “In Wonsan, Kim had an underground bombproof Olympic swimming pool constructed with his image emblazoned in gold tiles on the bottom. North Korean engineers had even built him a motorised boogie board.”
- He was entertained by a creepy “Joy Division” brigade: “Teams of beautiful North Korean girls, most forcibly recruited under the age of 16, were maintained to provide entertainment, massages, and sexual gratification … the Dear Leader might order them to sing sentimental songs, disco dance, strip naked, or hold spontaneous boxing matches.”
- Kim had some expensive eating habits: “It was part of Fujimoto’s job to fly North Korean jets around the world to procure dinner-party ingredients — to Iran for caviar, Tokyo for fish, or Denmark for beer. It was Fujimoto who flew to France to supply the Dear Leader’s yearly $700,000 cognac habit. And when the Dear Leader craved McDonald’s, it was Fujimoto who was dispatched to Beijing for an order of Big Macs to go.”
- And the Dear Leader was a foodie: “Kim Jong-il was a fan of cooking shows. Iron Chef was his favourite. When Fujimoto’s culinary travels took him to Japan, he stocked up on VHS tapes of the latest episodes so he and [Kim] could have long discussions about foie gras, truffles, and Kobe beef.”
- He had a strange sense of humour: “As a wedding prank, Kim Jong-il had the unconscious Fujimoto’s pubic hair shaved off.”
- Fujimoto introduced Kim’s son (and current dictator) Kim Jong-il to his basketball: “Fujimoto introduced [Kim’s children] to video games, remote-control cars, and most important, basketball. Fujimoto’s sister in Japan sent him VHS tapes of Bulls playoff games, so Kim Jong-un’s first taste of Western hoops came from watching Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman — men who became his heroes.”
- Years later, once he returned to Japan, Fujimoto was nearly murdered by one of Kim’s henchmen. When Fujimoto asked Kim about it, he admitted he had sent an assassin to Okinawa: “He urged Fujimoto to forget about it. He was still alive, wasn’t he? It was Kim’s wife, Ko Young-hee, who’d reminded him of how funny and loveable his Japanese friend had been. Thus the killer was recalled.”
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