- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a habitual smoker, was seen smoking just once during the inter-Korean summit.
- Some South Korean officials theorise Kim had refrained from public smoking after considering the symbolism of the summit and out of respect for South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
- During a previous dinner, Kim reportedly received a light-hearted rebuke from his wife because of his smoking habits.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un received intense scrutiny during his appearance at the historic inter-Korean summit last week, and his actions during the event reveal that he was keenly aware that the world was watching.
Case in point: Kim, who is known to be a chain smoker, was seen having only one smoke break during the hourslong summit.
Around 8:00 p.m. local time, Kim quietly left a lighthearted dinner with 30 South Koreans and 24 North Koreans, and was seen smoking for the first time since the summit began.
“Although I heard Chairman Kim was a heavy smoker, it appeared he refrained from public smoking after considering the symbolism of the inter-Korean summit and the many South and North Koreans,” a South Korean official said, according to the South Korean news outlet Donga-Ilbo.
Kim is reportedly a habitual smoker and has been seen many times – including at day care centres and hospitals – pointing at various objects with a cigarette in hand. Kim smoked and drank when he was in his mid-teens, according to Kenji Fujimoto, the personal chef of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, who also claims to have smoked with Kim.
According to a source familiar with a dinner attended by Kim and a South Korean envoy in March, Kim reportedly received a light-hearted rebuke from his wife, Ri Sol Ju, after the subject of smoking came up: “I always ask that it would be good if he quit, but he does not listen,” Ri said.
South Korean officials had already prepared ashtrays at various points of the summit where Kim and Moon held private discussions, according to The Ilbo. But Kim never appeared to indulge himself a quick smoke during the event
One South Korean presidential staffer also said that Kim did not smoke in rooms with reporters, as a sign of respect, nor did he smoke when he was with Moon, meaning that the “34-year-old Chairman Kim considered [65-year-old] President Moon much more of an elder than himself,” and thus deserving of the courtesy.
However, South and North Korean officials indulged themselves in alcohol – including Kim, who reportedly “did not once refuse a drink.”
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