Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, was 27 when he inherited power in 2011. Some insights into his early life of privilege follow, adapted from “The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un,” a new book by The Washington Post’s Beijing bureau chief:
The six-year-old Kim Jong Un stood by the billiard table in the games room of the royal residence at Sinchon, south of Pyongyang, one of dozens of palatial compounds reserved for North Korea’s first family.
He and his older brother, Kim Jong Chol, were waiting for their father to come out of a meeting with some officials. They were dressed in child-sized military uniforms, olive green suits complete with gold buttons and red piping. They had moon-shaped hats on their heads and gold stars on their shoulders. They were little generals.
When their father entered the room, they stood to attention and saluted him, serious expressions on their chubby faces. Kim Jong Il was delighted and wanted to introduce the boys to the officials and the household staff before they went into the dining room next door. Everyone lined up to meet the boys, who were referred to as “little princes.”
Kenji Fujimoto, who had moved from Japan to North Korea to make sushi in the royal households, was at the end of the line. He grew more and more nervous as the princes got closer, his heart beating faster with every step they took.
Jong Chol was first. Fujimoto extended his hand, and the eight-year-old reciprocated with a firm shake. Then Fujimoto put out his hand to the younger child. This one was not so well mannered. Instead of shaking Fujimoto’s hand, Jong Un glared at him with “sharp eyes” that seemed to say, “You abhorrent Japanese.” The chef was shocked and embarrassed that a child would stare down a forty-year-old man. After a few seconds that stretched out painfully for Fujimoto, Kim Jong Il intervened to save the situation.
“This is Mr. Fujimoto,” Kim Jong Il said, prompting “Prince Jong Un” to finally agree to shake hands, although without much enthusiasm. The chef thought there may have been some name recognition. Perhaps the boys had eaten the sushi he had prepared and heard that it had been made by “Fujimoto from Japan.”
Fujimoto was just one member of a team of chefs who prepared lavish meals for Kim Jong Il and his families. They made grilled pheasant, shark fin soup, Russian-style barbecued goat meat, steamed turtle, roast chicken and pork, and Swiss-style raclette cheese melted on potatoes. The royal family ate only rice produced in a special area of the country. Female workers handpicked each grain one by one, making sure to choose flawless grains of equal size. Sushi was on the menu once a week. Fujimoto made lobster sashimi with wasabi soy sauce and nigiri sushi with fatty tuna, yellow tail, eel, and caviar. Seabass was Kim Jong Il’s favorite.
[The Washington Post]