With Kim Jong Il, North Korea became more resilient and dangerous than anyone had expected. Many believed that Kim Jong Il harbored ambitions to rule all of Korea. Others said he was more of a pragmatic realist that used threats and nuclear weapons to leverage foreign aid to keep himself and his country afloat.

Kim Jong Il is believed to have watched a lot of satellite television and kept an eye on the headline. While sensitive about how is he is perceived abroad he seems to be a firm in believer in the expression there is no such thing as bad publicity. He once told a Russian diplomat: “Throughout the entire world I am an object of criticism. But I see it this way: if I am being talked about, then I’m on the right track.”

On one hand, Kim Jong Il opened up North Korea a crack by welcoming the leaders of South Korea and Japan. But on the other hand, as Jean H. Lee of Associated Press wrote: “His longtime pursuit of nuclear weapons and his military’s repeated threats to South Korea and the U.S. stoked worries that fighting might break out again on the Korean peninsula or that North Korea might provide weapons of mass destruction to terrorist movements. [Source: Jean H. Lee, The Associated Press, December 18, 2011]

According to the “Columbia Encyclopedia”: “In July, 2006, the North again launched several tests missiles, provoking international condemnation and drawing strong reactions from both the United States and Japan; the UN Security Council adopted some limited military sanctions in response. Then, in October, the North conducted a small underground nuclear test. Widely and strongly condemned internationally, including by China, the North's closest ally, the test resulted in additional, largely military sanctions. Japan and a number of other nations adopted more extensive sanctions, but China and South Korea, the North's largest trade partners, both largely avoided placing restrictions on trade, out of concern over a possible military confrontation or economic and political collapse in North Korea. [Source: “Columbia Encyclopedia”, 6th ed., The Columbia University Press]

“In Feb., 2007, resumed six-party negotiations led to an agreement that called for the North to shut down its reactor in 60 days in exchange for aid; implementation of the agreement was held up, however, by the North's insistence on regaining access to its funds in Macao, which did not occur until June. The agreement also called for additional aid when further denuclearization steps were achieved. Japan was not a party to the aid agreement because of issues relating to the North's kidnapping of its citizens in the past. In July, the shutdown of the North's main nuclear facilities was confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Kim Jong Il on International Policy

James Brooke wrote in the New York Times: “Taking a skeptical attitude about the AIDS epidemic in Africa, Mr. Kim, whose government is skilled at extracting foreign aid, once commented to the”Russian businessman Kinstantin “Pulikovsky, ''Many countries just exaggerate their disasters to get more aid from the international community.'' [Source: James Brooke, New York Times, December 3 2002]

Peter Maass wrote in the New York Times Magazine: “The Dear Leader's political skills, underestimated by foreign observers” became more apparent after he began “meeting foreigners on a regular basis and “his regime, along with Iran,” was “one of two surviving members of the ''axis of evil'' proclaimed by President Bush.” U.S. Secretary of State Madeline “Albright's delegation spent more than 12 hours with Kim over two days in October 2000, half of that time in negotiations and the other half at dinners and ceremonial functions. During one negotiating session, Kim was presented with a list of 14 technical questions related to his missile program; the Americans expected him to pass the list to advisers who would respond later. Instead, Kim went down the list, one question after another, and answered most of them himself. Indeed, the Dear Leader” knew quite a bit about the world around him. [Source: Peter Maass, New York Times Magazine, October 19, 2003]

On the subject of war and the question of why “North Korea's government was spending its scarce resources on ballistic missiles instead of education or other social programs that would directly benefit its starving citizens? The Dear Leader did not hesitate to reply. ''The missiles cannot reach the United States,'' he said, ''and if I launch them, the U.S. would fire back thousands of missiles and we would not survive. I know that very well. But I have to let them know I have missiles. I am making them because only then will the United States talk to me.''

Japan: Prime Minister Visit in 2002 and Release of Abductees

On September 17, 2002, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited Pyongyang, North Korea. The visit lasted only a few hours. Koizumi arrived at Pyongyang around 9:00am. He met with Kim Jong Il for one hour in the late morning. Kim was described as stiff and nervous. He didn't welcome Koizumi with same open arms he did when he met with South Korea President Kim Dae Jung. Koizumi and Kim had lunch separately and had a second round of talks, for 1½ hours, in the afternoon. After giving a press conference alone, Koizumi flew home.

There were hopes that the meeting would lead to solutions to many of the problems that exist between Japan and North Korea. But the visit ended up creating more problems than it solved A joint declaration signed by both leaders called for the resumption of talks on the normalization of diplomatic relations between to the two countries. Kim Jong Il promised a moratorium on the provocative missile tests and promised to let weapons inspectors into the country and offered a “candid apology” for the abductions and said “this will never happen again." But the statements did little to dispel the outrage over the issue. See Abductees, North Korea, International

During Koizumi's trip to Pyongyang, the North Korea government admitted that it had abducted 13 Japanese nationals but said only five of the 13 were still alive. On October 15, 2002, five of the Japanese who were abducted by North Koreans returned to Japan. They were 1) 47-year-old Yasushi Chimura and 2) his 47-year-old his wife Fukie Hamamoto, 3) 45-year-old Kaoru Hasuike and 4) his 46-year-old his wife Yukiko Okuda, and 43-year-old Hitomi Soga. They were welcomed in a tearful reunion with around 40 relatives at Haneda Airport in Tokyo and given equally big welcomes when they returned to their home towns. They were only originally scheduled to stay for a few weeks but they ended up staying for good while their children remained in North Korea.

For months after the abductees returned home their every move was broadcast on televison. Shopping trips and visits with high school friends were top news stories. Politicians begged for photo ops with them. They met their favorite pop stars and were given money, training and jobs by the government.

Families of the eight abductees who were said by Pyongyang to have died questioned the credibility of the North Korea reports and demanded an investigation and answers to their questions. Needless to say authorities in Pyongyang were not very cooperative or forthcoming with information.

Relations with South Korea Under Kim Jong Il

The traditional North Korean line on South Korea is that it is a “puppet” of the United States. Even so in June 2000, Kim Jong Il and South Korean President Kim Dae Jung met in Pyongyang and signed a historic agreement vowing to pursue peace and reunification. It was the first summit between leaders of the two Koreas since the Korean War in the early 1950s and the first time a South Korean leader set foot in North Korea. Kim and South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun held a summit in Pyongyang in October 2007. Relations with the South became strained in 2008 when newly elected President Lee Myung Bak insisted that the North show progress on human rights and nuclear disarmament as a condition for aid and improvements in relations.

Philip Gourevitch wrote in the Observer: “Kim Jong Il has cannily played the South's fears to his advantage. He has reaped enormous financial and political support from the fact that, in 1987, after nearly 40 years of dictatorial rule, South Korea made the transition to democracy, and the majority of its people now vote according to their pocketbooks. Never mind that South Korea's constitution proclaims national reunification to be the absolute objective of the republic, and that 'one Korea' implies the same sacred mission in the South as it does in the North: victory over the impostor regime occupying the other half of the country. For the past five years, under two successive administrations, Seoul has abandoned its long-standing antagonism toward Pyongyang, adopting instead a policy of engagement, aimed at propping up North Korea with aid and trade. In practice, this means maintaining the Kim dynasty and the division of the peninsula.

“This 'sunshine policy' was introduced in 1998 by Kim Dae Jung, who was elected president on a platform of peaceful coexistence with North Korea. DJ, as he is known, had for much of the previous half century enjoyed a reputation as the most prominent domestic opponent of Seoul's military dictators. Once in office, he promoted reconciliation as the stepping stone toward eventual reunification - perhaps in a generation or two. The key to this gradualist approach was economic incentives. As the North savoured the benefits of its gentle opening, rail, road, and air links would punch through the DMZ; military de-escalation would follow; Pyongyang would recognise the rewards of market reforms, and perhaps even be enticed toward a relaxation of social control. That was the idea: to coax North Korea in a direction that would make it more like contemporary China, which has in the past decade replaced America as South Korea's biggest trading partner, and which also has no desire to see Pyongyang collapse. China does not want to be flooded with refugees, or have American troops move up from South Korea to its border. “The sunshine policy didn't address human rights or democracy. Business came first, and to speak of anything more 'sensitive' was considered tantamount to giving up the game before it began. “

According to the “Columbia Encyclopedia”: “North Korea continued its provocative actions against the South in 2009. It declared its agreements with South Korea to be scrapped, and it temporarily closed access to South Korean–run factories in Kaesong. North Korea shelled an island in South Korea near a disputed maritime border in January 2010, and in March a South Korean warship was sunk near the same border; an investigation determined a North Korean torpedo was the cause. As a result of the sinking, the South severely reduced its links with the North, though it continued minimal humanitarian aid. [Source: “Columbia Encyclopedia”, 6th ed., The Columbia University Press]

Kim Dae Jung Kim Jong Il Meeting

On June 13-15, 2000 Kim Jong Il and Kim Dae Jung met in Pyongyang and signed a historic agreement vowing to pursue peace and reunification. It was the first summit between leaders of North and South Korea since the Korean War in the early 1950s and the first time a South Korean leader set foot in North Korea. Kim Dae Jung was later given a Nobel Peace Prize, in part for his involvement in the summit. The South Korea leader told the BBC that he had wanted to share the prize with Kim Jong Il.

Choe Sang-Hun wrote in the New York Times: Kim Dae Jung “best moments came in June 2000, when Kim Jong-il hugged him at the Pyongyang airport and escorted him through the Communist capital, where hundreds of thousands were mobilized in their holiday best to wave flowers at the visitor from the South.” [Source: Choe Sang-Hun, New York Times, August 18, 2009]

The summit was a cordial, uplifting affair filled with clasped hands, hugs and champagne toasts. The whole affair was carefully managed and choreographed by Kim Jong Il. One analyst described it as “a movie” in which “he made himself the star.” In contrast to Kim Jong Il, Kim Dae Jung looked stiff and befuddled. The summit was covered almost around the clock by the South Korean television (the first live broadcast by South Korean televison from North Korea) while North Koreans were largely left in dark about what going except for a few edited images.

Not everyone was convinced that something of substance was occurring. The North Korean defector Han Chang Kwon told the International Herald Tribune, “On the surface the two leaders may get along with each other but North Korea will never change or abandon its current policies.” Kim Jong Il and Kim Dae Jung discussed sensitive issues. Kim Dae Jung didn’t reveal what was said but said the discussions were frank and productive and “raised good prospects.”

Philip Gourevitch wrote in the Observer: “ While the ultimate aim of the policy might be a more secure Korea, its most immediate objective was to prove its own value by winning Kim Dae Jung the opportunity to create a spectacular and emotionally charged image of a new Korean order: a handshake with the North Korean leader. DJ said that it was his lifelong dream to be the first South Korean leader to set foot on North Korean soil and in June 2000, a children's choir sang, 'Our wish is unification' as he flew off to Pyongyang. [Source: Philip Gourevitch, Observer Magazine, The Guardian, November 2, 2003]

“Kim Jong Il surprised Kim Dae Jung by venturing into public and greeting him at the airport. The Dear Leader, with his pompadour, short zippered jacket, and shades, presented himself as a puckish charmer, relaxed, courteous, statesmanly, the perfect host. A brass band played; soldiers goose-stepped past bobbing red balloons; throngs of civilians, numbered in the hundreds of thousands, leapt and flailed, chanting their leader's name. The two Kims were seen holding hands. DJ released a message saying, 'We are one people. We share the same fate. I love you all.'”

Details of Kim Jong Il-Kim Dae Jung Summit

Kim Jong Il gave Kim Dae Jung a friendly welcome in Pyongyang as he stepped off the plane onto a red carpet, amid cheers of “Kim Jong Il hurrah” by North Korea women in traditional gowns, and rode with him through Pyongyang, where thousands lined the streets waving azaleas. Kim Dae Jung arrived on the first legal flight between the Koreas (the flight took more than an hour because it had to fly out over the sea to avoid the DMZ. Kim Dae Jung had hoped to make a speech at airport in which he was to say “I love you all” but he was wisked into a limousine before he had a chance.

The summit was announced in April 2000. A month before the announcement, Kim Dae Jung announced in Berlin that South Korea was ready to help North Korea rebuild its battered economy. Secret talks to work out the summit were held in China. At the last minute the summit was inexplicably delayed for a day. At that point many thought it wouldn’t come off.

In a speech at a banquet on the second day, Kim Dae Jung said it was time for Korea’s 70 million people to heal wounds they had inflicted on each other and “chase away the fear of war from our land...The Korean people are one: we have a common fate. There is nothing we cannot do if we make steady efforts with good faith and patience.” At a luncheon on the final days Kim Jong Il and Kim Dae Jung joined their aides and sang “Our Wish Is for Unification,” a song almost every North and South Korean knows. On television, South Koreans watched their first lady Lee Hee Ho meet a former teacher she hadn’t seen in 60 years and watched North Korean school children perform a dance.

Jolly Kim Jong Il at the Kim Dae Jung Summit

Kim Jong Il was observed drinking ten glasses of wine at the main banquent. Even so he managed to show Confucian deference to the older Kim Dae Jung. Most surprising were images of Kim Jong Il — the reputed weirdo, evil recluse — being an outgoing, jovial host. North Koreans were probably surprised too. They rarely hear him speak and usually he shown mechanically waving or walking through factories.

Peter Maass wrote in the New York Times Magazine: “On their first night in North Korea's capital, the visitors from Seoul were treated to a feast at a banquet hall. Wine from Bordeaux was served, along with multiple courses of Korean food, including kalbi-kuk, a meat stew. The guests ate with copper chopsticks, and their dinner lasted for four hours, presided over at the head table by the Dear Leader. Seated to his right was Choe Hak Rae, then publisher of Hankyoreh Shinmun, a newspaper known for its friendly coverage of North Korea. [Source: Peter Maass, New York Times Magazine, October 19, 2003]

“As Choe recalls, Kim was ebullient, acting more like a Broadway producer with a smash hit on his hands than a dictator running a repressive and impoverished regime. Kim told jokes and casually conversed about everything from horses to missiles. When a fawning aide stopped by the head table and began praising his boss, Kim told him to skip the formalities — his precise words, in Korean, were ''Cut it out'' — and pour wine for their brothers from South Korea. He cried out ''Straight!'' when it came time for a toast, meaning that they should drain their glasses, but he only sipped his own wine. Kim told his guests that his doctors had suggested he cut down on liquor. Dictators can do many things, but they cannot keep their livers young forever.

Agreement Signed by Kim Jong Il and Kim Dae Jung

In the agreement signed by Kim Jong Il and Kim Dae Jung: 1) Kim Jong Il accepted an invitation to visit Seoul “at an appropriate time in the future”; 2) North and South Korea would solve the issue of reunification on their own initiative; 3) common ground can be found on separate proposals made for reunification; 4) separated families would be allowed to meet; 5) the two sides would promote economic cooperation and exchanges in culture, sports, health, the environment and other areas; and 6) implement the agreed-upon points through government-level dialogue.

Among some of the other proposals that were raised were: 1) establishing a military hot line between South Korea and North Korea; 2) reconnecting the railway line that once connected the two Koreas; 3) developing an anti-flood project along the Imjingang River, which runs along the border; and 4) repatriating of North Korean spies jailed in South Korea;

North Korea and South Korea also promised not to invade each other or make threatening moves. The accord did not deal with touchy issues such as the withdrawal of American troops from South Korea, North Korea’s nuclear weapon and missile programs, easing tensions on the DMZ and how to formally end the Korean War.

Many South Koreans were skeptical about the accord. Reunification agreements had been signed before but amounted to very little. As a document the accord was short on details. The hot line was never set up because of North Korean opposition. A request to provide advance warning of military maneuvers was also turned down,.

As 2002, only two of the 20 agreements agreed to by the two leaders had been implemented.

Kim Jong Il Took a US$500 Million Payoff to meet Kim Dae Jung

Later it was revealed that Kim Dae Jung may have “bought” the summit. Park Ji Won, his chief of staff, and organizer of the Kim Jong Il-Kim Dae Jung summit, was arrested of taking bribes and persuaded the government-controlled Korea Development Bank to give US$500 million in loans to the Hyundai conglomerate which sent the money to North Korea shortly before the summit.

Opposition leaders in South Korea claimed the US$500 million was a payoff to North Korea to go through with the summit. Hyundai asserted the money was used to secure exclusive business rights covering tourism, railways and an industrial park. The South Korean intelligence service admitted it helped secretly send US$200 million to North Korea. How the other US$300 million was delivered was not known.

Park Ji Won was accused of taking a US$13 million bribe from Hyundai two months before the summit. Kim Dae Jung’s economic advisor, Lee Ki Ho, was arrested on charges of persuading the Korea Development Bank to make the loans to Hyundai. Kim Dae Jung wasn’t charged in the scandal bu did publically apologize to South Koreans that money was sent to North Korea.

In August 2003, Chung Mong Hun, the chief of Hyundai’s operations in North Korea, jumped of to his death from a window on the 12th floor of the Hyundai headquarters in Seoul. Chung had been a major player in setting up the Kim Jong Il-Kim Dae Jung summit and was being investigated in connections with sending the payments to North Korea. In June 2003, the government stopped the investigation.

Aftermath of Kim Jong Il-Kim Dae Jung Meeting

Philip Gourevitch wrote in the Observer: “ Eleven million Korean families have been divided, along with the country, at the 38th parallel, and the Southern delegation was permitted to bring along a few members of such families to meet with their relatives in the North. Scenes of these wailing, tearful, and painfully brief public reunions played over and over on South Korean TV, and the promise of more and bigger reunions to come was held out as incontrovertible proof of the sunshine policy's triumph. To be sure, North Korean handlers blocked South Korean reporters from venturing out of their hotel to have a look around in their free time. But the two leaders concluded their talks with a joint declaration of agreement to continue a high-level dialogue 'to solve the question of the country's reunification independently by the concerted efforts of the Korean nation responsible for it' - and the summit was celebrated in the international press. 'There is no going back now,' the BBC announced. 'The world's last Stalinist state has embarked on the road to ending its isolation.' [Source: Philip Gourevitch, Observer Magazine, The Guardian, November 2, 2003]

On the whole relations between North and South Korea were slow to improve after the Kim Jong Il-Kim Dae Jung summit as the North increased its demands for economic aid while failing to fulfill the pledges it made. There were a few positive actions, many of them more symbolic than substantial. North and South Korea marched together in the Opening Ceremonies of the 2000 Olympics and North Korea sent a team to Pusan, South Korea for the Asian Games in 2002. Prisoners were exchanged. A South Korean fishing vessel that had drifted into North Korean waters was released and allowed to return to South Korea. In the past similar incidents often resulted in shots fired and deaths.

Kang Chol-hwan, a North Korean defector who spent time in a labor camp in North Korea and later worked as a newspaper reporter in the South, told The Guardian he regarded the fanfare of the sunshine policy and the later peace-and-prosperity approach of Roh Moo Hyun as hopelessly naive, and as something worse than appeasement, more like capitulation.

Roh Moo-hyun Visits North Korea

In October 2007, the Second inter-Korean summit held was held in Pyongyang after President Roh Moo-hyun becomes the first South Korean leader to walk across the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South. Talks with Kim Jong-il launched a wide-range of business deals with the north. For a few months the two Koreas met daily. [Source: Aidan Foster-Carter, The Guardian, May 25, 2009]

Jonathan Watts wrote in The Guardian: “The leaders of North and South Korea shook hands in Pyongyang at the start of the second ever summit between the two countries. A glum-looking Kim Jong-il, wearing his trademark olive-green tunic and platform shoes to make him look taller, greeted the visiting South Korean president, Roh Moo-hyun, in front of cheering crowds and a military guard of honour. Mr Roh is the first president to make the 125-mile drive between Seoul and Pyongyang. His predecessor, Kim Dae-jung, flew to the North Korean capital for the previous summit, in 2000. [Source: Jonathan Watts, The Guardian, October 2, 2007]

“The meeting - which comes almost exactly a year after the North tested its first nuclear weapon - is the latest in a series of recent breakthroughs to have eased tensions along one of the world's most heavily-militarised borders. However, excitement was noticeably less than at the first summit between the two sides. In televised images of the meeting, Mr Kim appeared reserved compared with the ebullient Mr Roh. Neither made any public comment. The North Korean crowd waved pink and red plastic flowers and cheered on cue when Mr Kim arrived, repeating the greeting minutes later as Mr Roh stepped from an open car supplied by North Korea.

“Expectations for the talks are considerably lower than they were in 2000, but Mr Roh has said he wants to "hasten the slow march" towards reconciliation. Stopping at the border, the South Korean leader vowed to break down the barriers erected after the bloody 1950-53 Korean war. Making a symbolic step across the military demarcation line, he said: "This line is the wall that has left our nation divided for half a century. Because of this wall, our nation has suffered so much pain. "Our people have suffered from too many hardships, and development has been held up due to this wall. I will make efforts to make my walk across the border an occasion to remove the forbidden wall and move toward peace and prosperity."

“The crossing took place in an area that has been the focus of both conflict and reconciliation. The yellow-taped border was a short distance away from the village of Panmunjom. South Korean authorities have already put up a stone monument to mark the spot where Mr Roh crossed the frontier. An inscription on the statue, taken from his handwriting, says: "The road to peace and prosperity." The North Korean city of Kaesong, the site of billions of dollars of South Korean investment in a new industrial complex, is nearby. Critics have accused Mr Roh, who leaves office in February, of conceding too much for the sake of what they claim is a political stunt aimed at bolstering support for his party ahead of December's presidential election.

Roh admitted that after arriving in the North Korean capital and meeting Kim, he was so worried that he couldn't sleep that night. He gave Kim Jong Il a massive package of gifts which included expensive lacquer-ware, ceramic works and a stack of DVDs featuring South Korean movies and television dramas. After the talks, Roh said his discussions with Kim were “candid and frank.” but admitted there were several disagreements between the two men and a “wall of distrust''.

Impact of the Kim Jong Il-Roh Moo-hyun Summit

A number of agreements were made at of the Kim Jong Il-Roh Moo-hyun summit. For the most part they were significant but short-lived. Reuters reported: “The leaders of North and South Korea pledged to seek talks with China and the United States to formally end the 1950-1953 Korean War and resume freight train services severed during the war.” The following are some of the points the leaders agreed on. [Source: Reuters, Oct 4, 2007; South Korean Government Information Agency]

1) Permanent Peace: The two leaders pledged to seek summit talks somewhere near the Korean peninsula with China and the United States to formally declare the Korean War over. The armistice that suspended the war was signed by China, the North and U.S.-led United Nations forces, but not by South Korea. The two sides reaffirmed pledges of non-aggression.

2) High-Level Talks: The two states will hold a meeting of defence ministers in November to discuss ways to prevent armed clashes. The prime ministers from the two sides will meet in November in Seoul to discuss the implementation of Thursday's agreement. The leaders of the two states will meet frequently to discuss any pending issues. The first summit was held in 2000.

3) Economic Cooperation: The North and South will establish a special district in the North Korean west-coast port city of Haeju and set up a regular maritime transport service with the South and a joint fishing ground. The two sides will step up expansion of the Kaesong industrial park just north of the heavily armed border where 44 South Korean firms are in operation now using cheap North Korean labour and real estate.

4) Trains and Highway: The leaders called for the resumption of regular freight train services between the South Korean border down of Munsan and Kaesong. The two states will repair the highway joining the North Korean capital and Kaesong and refurbish the railway between Kaesong and Sinuiju on the North's border with China.

5) Tourism and Air Travel: The two sides will operate direct tour flights between Seoul and Mount Paektu on the North Korean border with China.

6) Joint Olympic Cheering Squad: North and South Korea will send a joint cheering squad to the 2008 Summer Olympic games by train joining Seoul and Sinuiju in its inaugural run.

North Korea Accuses South Korea of Plotting to Kill Kim Jong Il

In 2008, Pyongyang said Seoul sent assassins on 'terrorist mission' to kill Kim Jong Il. Associated Press reported: “North Korea accused South Korea of hiring an agent to track Kim Jong Il and suggested the man had planned an assassination attempt before his arrest. The sensational allegation comes amid a serious worsening of relations between the divided Koreas as well as intense speculation about Kim's health since he reportedly suffered a stroke and had brain surgery in August. [Source: Associated Press, December 18, 2008]

“The North's Ministry of State Security identified the arrested man's family name as Ri and said he was trained by the South to gather information about Kim's movements. "The organization sent him speech and acoustic sensing and pursuit devices for tracking the movement of the top leader and even violent poison in the end," said the statement, which was also read on North Korean state television.

“The statement said the "terrorist mission" was ordered by a South Korean intelligence organization "to do harm to the top leader." The National Intelligence Service — South Korea's main spy agency — said it was checking the claim. The statement from North Korea, carried by the country's official Korean Central News Agency, did not mention Kim by name, but South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Ho-nyeon said the North's state media has before used such wording to refer to him.

Kim Jong Il Said to Have Ordered the Yeonpyeong Island and Cheonan Torpedo Attacks

November 2010., following a South Korean artillery exercise in disputed waters near the North Korean border, North Korean forces fired around 170 artillery shells and rockets at Yeonpyeong Island, hitting both military and civilian targets there. The shelling caused widespread damage on the island, killed four South Koreans and injured 19. South Korea retaliated by shelling North Korean gun positions

It is believed that Kim Jong Il ordered the attack. Reuters reported: “Kim Jong-il and his son and successor Jong-un visited the artillery base from where shells were fired at a South Korean island just hours before the attack, South Korean media reported. North Korea's attack on Yeonpyeong Island that killed two South Korean marines and two civilians was probably ordered by Kim Jong-il himself, the Joongang Daily quoted a well-informed government source as saying. South Korean media reported the father and son had met General Kim Kyok-sik, the commander of the frontline fourth corps in charge of a Navy base in South Hwanghae province, just before the North shelled the island. [Source: Jeremy Laurence, Reuters, Nov 25, 2010]

In March 2010, the Cheonan, a South Korean warship, carrying 104 personnel, sank off the west coast of South Korea near Baengnyeong Island in the Yellow Sea, killing 46 seamen. The exact cause of the sinking is still a matter of dispute, although the generally consensus is that it brought down by a North Korea torpedo and that attack too was ordered by Kim Jong Il.

David E. Sanger wrote in the, New York Times, “A new American intelligence analysis of a deadly torpedo attack on a South Korean warship concludes that Kim Jong Il must have authorized the torpedo assault, according to senior American officials who cautioned that the assessment was based on their sense of the political dynamics there rather than hard evidence. The officials said they were increasingly convinced that Kim ordered the sinking of the ship, the Cheonan, to help secure the succession of his youngest son. "We can't say it is established fact," said one senior official who was involved in the highly classified assessment, based on information collected by many of the country's 16 intelligence agencies. "But there is very little doubt, based on what we know about the current state of the North Korean leadership and the military." [Source: David E. Sanger, New York Times, May 22, 2010]

“North Korea has denied any involvement in the attack, despite the presentation of forensic evidence — including parts of the torpedo found in the wreckage — that experts from three countries said established that the torpedo was launched from a North Korean submarine. Although officials would not reveal much about what led them to conclude that Kim was directly involved, one factor appeared to be intelligence that he appeared on April 25, the founding day of the Korean People's Army, with its Unit 586, the unit that intelligence agencies believe to have been responsible for the attack. Kim used the event to praise the unit, and around that time a fourth star was given to Gen. Kim Myong Guk, who officials believe may have played a crucial role in executing the attack.”

North Korean Diplomats Executed for South Korea Policy Failures

Kwon Ho Ung, former chief delegate for ministerial talks with South Korea, was killed by firing squad in July 2010 over policy failures, according to Dong-a Ilbo. Associated Press reported: “Kwon Ho Ung – Pyongyang's chief delegate from 2004 to 2007 for ministerial talks with Seoul's then liberal government – was executed by firing squad, Seoul's mass-circulation Dong-a Ilbo newspaper said, citing an unidentified source in Beijing. It is the latest reported death sentence for a North Korean official over policy failures. [Source: Associated Press, July 20, 2010]

In May 2009, the Korea Times reported: “North Korea executed its point-man on South Korea in 2008, holding him accountable for instituting wrong'' South Korean policies during previous liberal governments, Yonhap News Agency reported. The news agency said that Choe Sung-chol, former vice chairman of the North's Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, who disappeared from public sight early last year, was reportedly executed last year for hiswrong judgments'' on Seoul. [Source: Kim Jae-kyoung, Korea Times, May 2009]

“The news agency quoted informed sources as saying, Choe has become a scapegoat of what were believed to be wrong South Korean policies. Officially, the North accused him of corruption in handling inter-Korean matters.''However, the truth is that the regime there held him accountable for his judgments on the liberal governments' sunshine policy, and wrong predictions about the Lee Myung-bak administration,'' it added.

Choe, also a deputy director of the Workers' Party inter-Korean department, came into the public spotlight in 2007, when he escorted Roh throughout his visit to Pyongyang for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Choe is known to have played a key role in arranging the summit

Axis of Evil and U.S. Policy Towards North Korea During the Kim Jong Il Era

In 2002, President George W. Bush denounced North Korea as a member of an "axis of evil" along with Iran and Iraq. He later described Kim as a "tyrant" who starved his people so he could build nuclear weapons. "Look, Kim Jong Il is a dangerous person. He's a man who starves his people. He's got huge concentration camps. And ... there is concern about his capacity to deliver a nuclear weapon," Bush said in 2005. In private Bush called the North Korean leader a ''pygmy,'' a mindless, brutal leader. Peter Maass wrote in the New York Times Magazine: The Bush administration tried to figure out how to end Kim's regime, or at least to neutralize it. This is proving to be an extraordinarily difficult task, since the regime is far more resilient than anyone expected and far more dangerous.

Kerry Brown wrote in The Guardian: “North Korea had signed an agreement in 1993, brokered by a visit by the former US president Jimmy Carter, to stop its nuclear programme in return for help in building two power-generating nuclear reactors. Disagreements on both sides meant the reactors were not built, and North Korea progressed towards its own nuclear programme in 2003. A brief thaw in relations between the U.S. and the DPRK at the end of the Clinton presidency in 2000 saw high-level visits on both sides, but this stopped momentarily in the George W Bush era, before North Korea was encouraged back to the negotiating table as part of what were called the six party talks from 2006 onwards. The election of Barack Obama as US president in 2008 served to provoke a period of harsh rhetoric, nuclear testing, missile launches, and diplomatic aggression uncharacteristic even for the DPRK.” Relations with South Korea and the United States thawed some in Aug., 2009, after former U.S. president Clinton visited to obtain the release of two U.S. journalists who had been seized for crossing the North's border with China; [Source: Kerry Brown, The Guardian, December 19, 2011]

In October 2002, US and its key Asian allies Japan and South Korea halted oil shipments following North Korea's reported admission that it had secretly been developing a uranium-based nuclear programme. In December 2002, North Korea announced it was reactivating nuclear facilities at Yongbyon and expelled UN inspectors. In January 2003, North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, marking the beginning of a series of six-party talks involving China, the Koreas, the US, Japan and Russia to try to resolve the nuclear issue. In May 2003, North Korea withdrew from 1992 agreement with South Korea to keep the Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons. [Source: BBC]

In October 2006, North Korea conducted its first nuclear weapons test at an underground facility. In October 2003, Pyongyang declared it had completed the reprocessing of 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods with enough weapons-grade plutonium to develop up to six nuclear bombs within months. In February 2005, North Korea admitted publicly for the first time that it has produced nuclear weapons for "self defence". In July 2006, North Korea tested fires seven missiles including a long-range Taepodong-2 missile, capable of to hitting the US.

In October 2006, after North Korea’s first nuclear weapons test, the United Nations imposed economic and commercial sanctions on North Korea. In July 2007, North Korea shut down it main Yongbyon reactor after receiving 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil as part of an aid package. In addition to the facility shutdown, North Korea agreed to supply a declaration of its nuclear facilties and activities by the end of the 2007; it asserted it had done so, but the United States said that the declaration was not complete. In October 2008, North agreed to provide full access to Yongbyon nuclear site after US removes it from terrorism blacklist.

In May 2009, North Korea carried out its second underground nuclear test. UN Security Council condemns move in June. In August 2009, North Korea freed American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee after former US President Bill Clinton facilitates their release. The pair was sentenced to 12 years hard labour for allegedly crossing the border illegally.

In August 2010, former US president Jimmy Carter visited Pyongyang to seek the release of an American — Aijalon Gomes, a 31-year-old English teacher and Christian missionary — who has been sentenced to eight years in prison for entering North Korea illegally. Carter engaged in unofficial diplomacy with the regime, although the Obama administration stressed that he was on a private humanitarian visit. In April 2011, Carter visited Pyongyang again and discussed the nuclear issue with Kim Jong Il.

Kim Jong Il, Bill Clinton and Madeline Albright

On October 23 and 24, 2000 U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright met with Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang. She was the highest ranking U.S. official to visit Pyongyang sine 1953. A week or so earlier North Korea’s No. 2 man, Jo Myong Rok, visited the White House in Washington and a chatted and exchanged views with U.S. President Bill Clinton for about 45 minutes and delivered a personal letter from Kim Jong Il.

At the time of the Albright visit, North Korean newspaper reported: “The beloved leader does not even have to travel anywhere. Instead, Americans, Chinese, Japanese and others rush to Pyongyang to met the beloved leader and to accommodate North Korea.” After the meetings North Korea would no longer referred to the United States as “the imperial aggressor.” The United States said that it would no longer refer to North Korea as a “rogue nation.” There was some discussion of Clinton going to Pyongyang if Kim Jong Il was willing to submit to verifiable agreement on halting missile research, production deployment and exports. Time ran out and the Clinton administration was replaced by the Bush administration.

Peter Maass wrote in the New York Times Magazine: “In October 2000, an unprecedented visit to North Korea by an American delegation led by Secretary of State Albright. This was in the waning days of the Clinton administration, before the 1994 nuclear agreement fell apart, and Albright wanted to sound out Kim on a plan for ending his missile-production program; Kim, in return, wanted Clinton to visit Pyongyang. [Source: Peter Maass, New York Times Magazine, October 19, 2003]

“The Americans were in for some surprises. The North Koreans had promised that Albright would see Kim, but when she arrived in Pyongyang, her schedule did not include a meeting with him. Her delegation was whisked into the city in the early morning, to the guest house where they would stay, and shortly afterward they were taken on a tour that many foreign visitors go through in Pyongyang, highlighted — that may not be the right word — by a visit to the tomb of Kim Il Sung.

“Smart as he is, Kim lives in a different world and doesn't always realize it. One evening, the Albright delegation was shepherded into a stadium in Pyongyang, where they were seated next to Kim. For the next two hours the Americans were treated to a ''mass game'' — a fantasia of synchronized gymnastics on the stadium floor and card-turning displays on the opposite side of the stadium.... One card montage performed for Albright showed a North Korean missile being launched into the sky. It was an odd display for Americans who were negotiating a cessation of missile production and research. But Kim, ever the showman, turned to Albright on his right and said, ''That was our first missile launch and our last.'' To make sure his message got through, he turned to Sherman on his left and repeated his statement. The meaning was clear: the missile program can be stopped if you offer us a new relationship. ''This was totally orchestrated, the cards and turning to us,'' Sherman said when I spoke with her at the Washington office of the Albright Group, a consulting firm. ''For all I know, that was the purpose of taking us to the stadium.''

Madeline Albright on Kim Jong Il

Albright called Kim Jong Il “a very good listener,” “decisive and practical,” and “jovial, forthcoming and interested and knowledgeable.” Her delegation spent 12 hours with Kim Jong Il, half of the time in negotiations and the other half at dinners and ceremonial functions. He was adept at talking about meaty foreign policy issues as he was about NBA basketball and the Academy Awards. Instead of handing off technical questions of missiles and weapons to his aides he answered them himself. Albright gave Kim Jong Il a regulation NBA basketball signed by Michael Jordan. At one dinner, her delegation was served shark fin soup in coconut shells, suckling pig and mung bean pancakes. She sat with Kim Jong Il at mass games sport spectacle in which among other things an image of missile being fired was made by people in the seats with cards.

Peter Maass wrote in the New York Times Magazine: ““At lunch, Albright was abruptly told she would meet Kim in the afternoon. The delegation was driven to his guest house, and as Albright stood in front of a huge mural depicting a storm at sea, Kim walked in, greeting her with both hands extended forward. They were about the same height, Albright in her heels and Kim in his platform shoes. He poured on the charm. Kim asked Albright if she had seen any recent films, and when she replied ''Gladiator,'' Kim said he had seen ''Amistad,'' which he described as ''very sad.'' He proudly told Wendy Sherman, who was in Pyongyang as special adviser to Clinton on North Korea: ''I own all the Academy Award movies. I've watched them all.''[Source: Peter Maass, New York Times Magazine, October 19, 2003]

“Albright and Sherman returned to Washington convinced that Kim Jong Il's stated intentions should be put to the test: he should be offered a new relationship with the U.S. government, including a visit by Clinton to North Korea, if he was willing to submit to a verifiable agreement on halting missile research, production, deployment and exports. This was a position that critics would certainly attack as appeasement, but for Albright and Sherman, it was a price worth paying to end the North Korean missile threat.

“''I have no illusions about Kim,'' Sherman said. ''He's charming but totally controlling. He is a leader who has left his people with no freedom, no choices, no food, no future. People are executed. There are labor camps. But the decision we have to make is whether to try to deal with him to open the country so that the people of North Korea do have freedom, do have choices, do have food. Do I think it would be preferable to not deal with him? Yes, but the consequences are horrible, so you have to deal with him.''

“The clock ran out. There wasn't enough time before Clinton left office to negotiate the agreements that would need to be in place before Air Force One could take off for North Korea. The momentum halted with the advent of the Bush administration. But now, with the second round of six-party talks nearing, the Americans are trying to figure out once again whether and how to deal with Kim. tightening, the North Korean economy is on an incredibly bad path.”

China’s Relationship with North Korea Under Kim Jong Il

During the Kim Jong Il years, China was the key to propping up North Korea — through trade and buying North Korean coal — at a time when North Korea was cut off economically from much of the rest of the world because of U.S. and United Nations sanctions imposed because its nuclear weapons and missile programs. At that time, Russia was a less reliable partner than the Soviet Union, which collapsed in 1991, had been, increasing China’s importance to North Korea. In the last years of Kim Jong Il’s life and term as leader, he visited China several times, once with his son, Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea after Kim Jong Il’s death, presumably to get to some tips on reforming the North Korean economy the Chinese way and smoothing the transition for Kim Jong-un.

The Korea Herald reported after his last trip to China: “Only a few days after Kim Jong-il returned to Pyongyang from a week-long tour, it may be premature to assess the outcome of the North Korean leader’s latest China visit, his third in about a year. News dispatches by official Chinese and North Korean outlets provide few clues to substantial economic gains for the North but the visit again demonstrated the deepening ties between the two neighbors and allies. [Source: Korea Herald, May 30, 2011]

“Some analysts have determined that Kim returned home empty-handed without winning any firm commitment of massive aid from the Chinese leaders. They particularly noted the absence of North Korean economic officials from the meeting between Kim and Chinese President Hu Jintao, who was accompanied by an array of top economic aides. They understood the asymmetrical conference revealed Kim’s resentment at China’s lack of response to his request for more economic aid.

“What was puzzling observers here, however, was the great fanfare given to Kim Jong-il upon his return from the China tour. The Korean Central News Agency reported Sunday that a military song and dance band performed a gala show for Kim Jong-il at an undisclosed place. Kim Jong-un, who greeted his father at the border city of Sinuiju Friday, is believed to have arranged the celebration where a large number of the North’s power elite were present.

“There was no such congratulatory event after Kim’s six previous visits to China. The KCNA lauded Kim’s “energetic foreign activities day and night” through more than 6,000 kilometers of travel which made an “imperishable contribution” to the development of the North Korea-China friendship and the prosperity of the socialist country.

“The lavish praise is no doubt aimed to make the Northern people and the outside world believe that Kim Jong-il’s visit was highly successful despite the sparse evidence of concrete achievements. The poor North Koreans might be led to appreciate the devotion of their leader, who is still recovering from a stroke three years ago, to getting the country out of economic hardships. Pyongyang leaders also wanted to display the security of the father-son combination in the North’s ruling structure.

“No matter how Beijing and Pyongyang may try to convince the outsiders of their rock hard ties, Kim’s three trips to China in a year without return visits by his Chinese counterpart have exposed how desperate he is for China’s help. North Korea has become a virtual vassal state of China and is not in a position to complain about how it was treated by its big brother in Beijing.

Unlike his previous visit in August, Kim did not take his third son and heir apparent Jong-un. Yet, he still wanted to have the dynastic power transition recognized by Chinese leaders as he mentioned the “great historic task” of relaying friendship from one generation to the next. President Hu responded passively by just paraphrasing Kim’s remarks about inheriting friendship.

Kim and Hu discussed reducing tension on the Korean Peninsula and the nuclear issue, the latter being the North Korean chief’s bargaining chip to secure stronger support from China. Kim spoke of his wish to have an early resumption of the six-party talks reiterating readiness for denuclearization. Hu, whether assured by this gesture or not, lectured Kim about the importance of maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula by remaining calm and restrained in disputes, removing obstacles, showing flexibility and improving relations.

“As we review Kim Jong-il’s China visit based on the limited official and unofficial information on the top-level dialogue and his provincial tours, we realize the contradiction of China’s growing leverage on the North and the limitation of its influence on its ally in the area of security, particularly on denuclearization. The Chinese know how to apply pressure on the North Koreans but are also aware of the risk of excessive interference.”

Kim Jong Il's Seven Trips to China

May 29-31, 2000: At the invitation of Chinese President Jiang Zemin, Kim Jong Il made a three-day visit to China in 2000, his first since becoming leader of North Korea. President Jiang held talks with Kim at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. [Source: Wang Wei,]

January 15-20, 2001: At the invitation of the Chinese President Jiang Zemin, Kim made another visit to China for six days in 2001. President Jiang and Kim again held talks at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Before their meeting, Kim and his entourage paid a four-day visit to Shanghai.

April 19-21, 2004: At the invitation of Chinese President Hu Jintao, Kim visited China for three days in 2004. During the talks, the two leaders discussed bilateral relations and the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue.

January 10-18, 2006: At the invitation of Chinese President Hu Jintao, Kim visited China for a fourth time on a nine-day trip that took him to Hubei Province, Guangdong Province and Beijing, where he met with President Hu.

May 3-7, 2010: At the invitation of Chinese President Hu Jintao, Kim visited China for five days in 2010. At their talks in Beijing, the Chinese president put forward five proposals for strengthening bilateral ties. Kim and Hu also discussed their views on international affairs, including the situation in Northeast Asia and the six-party talks on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue.

August 26-30, 2010: At the invitation of Chinese President Hu Jintao, Kim visited China for five days, making stops to the northeastern cities of Jilin, Changchun and Harbin, including a school attended by Kim’s father, Kim Il Sung, the first leader of North Korea. President Hu met with Kim in Changchun and the two leaders discussed three proposals on further strengthening relations between the two countries. The two leaders also discussed the situation on the Korean Peninsula as well as international and regional issues of common concern. Kim Jong Il’s son, Kim Jong-un, the future leader of North Korea, accompanied Kim Jong Il on this trip.

May 20-26, 2011: At the invitation of Chinese President Hu Jintao, Kim visited China for his last time for a seven-day trip. It was Kim’s third visit to China in a year, in a sign of his country's growing dependence on its neighbour.. During his stay in China, he traveled to Heilongjiang, Jilin and Jiangsu provinces. He also made a stop in Beijing, where he met with President Hu and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. Other members of the CPC Politburo Standing Committee, including Jia Qinglin, Li Changchun, Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, He Guoqiang and Zhou Yongkang, also met with Kim during his trip.

Kim Jong-il Visits China with Kim Jong-un in August 2010

In August 2010, Kim Jong-il visited China with Kim Jong-un, fueling speculations that ailing dictator was preparing the way for his youngest son to take over power. Justin McCurry and Jonathan Watts wrote in The Guardian: “North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-il, prompted speculation that he will soon anoint a successor by making an unexpected trip today to the country's main ally, China. The ailing dictator, who reportedly suffered a stroke two years ago, crossed the border in his armoured train and visited the Chinese school where his father, the former president Kim Il-sung, began taking an interest in communism. [Source: Justin McCurry and Jonathan Watts, The Guardian, August 26, 2010]

“The second trip to China in less than three months is unusual for Kim, who rarely leaves his home. Coming before a rare meeting of the North Korean Workers' party in Pyongyang, analysts said the visit might be aimed at laying the groundwork for a transfer of power to his third son, Kim Jong-un. After recent floods in North Korea, Kim may be seeking more aid from his country's main benefactor, and discussing steps to resume six-party nuclear talks.

“As with previous trips, neither government has commented on reports that Kim has crossed the border, but teachers at Yuwen middle school in Jilin province confirmed they had received a 20-minute visit. "He definitely came over," a physical education teacher who would give only his surname, Zhao, told the Associated Press. "But I'm not sure if his son was with him or what time he came."

“According to South Korean media, Kim may be travelling with his son to consult with Chinese officials on plans to extend the world's only communist dynasty. Analysts said Kim's reported trip to Beijing was probably connected to next month's party assembly, the first of its kind for more than 30 years. At the last such meeting, in 1980, the party confirmed Kim Jong-il's status as heir apparent to his father, Kim Il-sung, although he did not become leader until his father's death in 1994. "There is so much circumstantial evidence pointing to the succession issue," said Daniel Pinkston, a North Korea expert with the International Crisis Group in Seoul. He said there were also signs that the North Koreans were looking for "cash aid and assistance. If the succession is being accelerated, then of course Kim has an incentive to address the economic problems and other issues which will be helpful for his son in the transition to taking power."

Russia’s Relationship with North Korea Under Kim Jong Il

After the collapse Communism in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Russia and North Korea were estranged and North Korea lost much of its support. Relations improved when Putin came to visited Pyongyang in July, 2000. The Russians never took North Korea very seriously. One Russian diplomat told the Japan Times, “We used to laugh our hearts out over illustrated magazines in Russian regularly sent by the North Korean embassy” North Korea workers were treated like slaves in Russia. They were also reportedly used to smuggle North-Korean-produced opium and heroin into Russia to sell to the Russian mafia.

The Soviet Union stunned North Korea in September 1990 when it established diplomatic relations with South Korea. Since that time and since the collapse of the Soviet Union in August 1991, North Korea has worked to build a relationship with Russia's new political leaders. North Korea's efforts to recapture some of the previous closeness and economic benefits of its relationship with the former Soviet Union are seriously hampered, however, by Russia's preoccupation with its own political and economic woes. Trade between the two nations has dropped dramatically since 1990. North Korea cannot compete with the quality of goods South Korea can offer. Whereas the Soviet Union had extended credit without problems to North Korea, Russia has demanded hard currency for whatever North Korea purchases. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1993]

Kim Jong Il visited Russia in August 2011, four months before his death, presumably to discuss natural gas pipeline deal and Russia’s involvement in the Six-Party tlaks. Associated Press reported: “Kim Jong-il has travelled by armoured train to eastern Siberia for a summit with the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev. The North Korean leader arrived in Ulan-Ude, the capital of Buryatia, a Buddhist province near Lake Baikal, Russian news agencies reported. Kim's motorcade left town in the direction of Turka, a picturesque village on the shores of Baikal. The talks could focus on a deal for a pipeline that would stream Russian natural gas through the North's territory to the South. South Korean media said the North could earn up to US$100m a year. The Korea Herald newspaper stated bluntly a strain of thinking in Seoul in an editorial on Tuesday: "It does not take genius to guess why Kim is visiting Russia. [He] desperately needs economic aid." [Source: Associated Press August 23, 2011]

Kim Jong Il’s Train Trip to Moscow

Kim Jong Il traveled to Moscow on the Trans-Siberian railroad in a private train in the summer of 2001. The entire trip took 24 days. Kim Jong Il traveled in an armored rail car given by Stalin to his father. His personal train was preceded by another train to make sure no mines or explosives placed on the track exploded under Kim’s car and followed by a third train to make sure no one commandeered a train and rammed Kim Jong Il’s train from behind. Trains stations were cleared of passengers and other trains were stopped when Kim Jong Il train came passing through.

Kim Jong Il boarded the train on a red carpet, ate 4-hour, 15-course meals with silver chopsticks and had cases of Bordeaux and Burgundy wine and live lobsters flow to the train. The entourage included four young female “conductors” who bowed deeply for a long time when they entered a room with Kim Jong Il in it and entertained Kim Jong Il and his companions with Russian and Korean songs. One car was a meeting room with flat screen televison used for showing videos and checking the trains position visa satellite. Another held two bullet proof Mercedes.

On the trip Kim Jong Il talked about how beautiful the women were in Paris discos and railed the Bush administration’s Korea policy. On the AIDS epidemic in Africa he said, “Many countries just exaggerate their disasters to get more aid from the international community.” In Omsk he visited a tank factory, model pig farm and spent almost an hour peering through a microscope at a collection of poems in the world’s smallest book.

Kim Jong Il made a shorter trip in Russia in the summer of 2002. In Vladivostok he consumed cold vodka and beet and cabbage soup with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons.

Text Sources: Daily NK, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Library of Congress, CIA World Factbook, World Bank, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Chunghee Sarah Soh in “Countries and Their Cultures”, “Columbia Encyclopedia”, Korea Times, Korea Herald, The Hankyoreh, JoongAng Daily, Radio Free Asia, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, The Telegraph, BBC, AFP, The Atlantic, Yomiuri Shimbun, The Guardian and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2021

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