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UTUSN Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-04-10 08:47 PM
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Kim Jong Il. words just fail.
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What We Know About North Korea, and Kim Jong Il, From His Defected Staff

Another former employee of North Korea's secretive dictatorship a personal shopper has escaped to tell his story. Here's a roundup of the bizarre details he, and two chefs, told of their time working for the world's weirdest dictator.

The people of North Korea have, for decades, been starving to death while a madman spends the country's dwindling fortune on weapons and himself. And, of course, on propping up his totalitarian regime. As Nicholas Kristof wrote "entire families sometimes executed if one member gets drunk and slights the Dear Leader." The country's nickname, the hermit kingdom, is hard-earned. Very few reports have emerged from the highest levels of government, and even fewer from the court of Kim himself. Here's what we know from the few who have escaped forced stripteases and all.

For 20 years Kim Jong Ryul, now 75, was the regime's personal shopper. A bright, educated former army colonel, who spoke English, German and Japanese, his job was to travel the world buying everything from Mercedes Benzes to weapons and nuclear equipment for the dictatorship. Though this interview in the LA Times is maddeningly short on specifics it speaks very broadly of luxury goods Kim said he shopped in Europe and America and paid 30 per cent over the asking price for anything potentially awkward to stop people asking any questions. At the same time he began putting three per cent of every transaction into a private bank for himself. Eventually, in 1994, he faked his own death (again, the LAT is bizarrely vague on the topic) and went into hiding in Vienna, leaving his wife and two children behind. He has never seen, nor heard from them, since, and doesn't expect to although he's confident they're still alive. Now, in conjunction with two Austrian journalists, he has written a book about his experiences. The LAT, again, do not provide a release date, or any details. Maybe they're being North Korean. .... (2 other employees ((chefs))'s stories here: )

Send an email to Ravi Somaiya, the author of this post, at .

North Korea's personal shopper has tales to tell

By Julia Damianova
April 4, 2010

About 15 years ago, Kim says, he exchanged his upper-echelon North Korean government job for a lonely underground existence in Austria, where he remains in constant fear of assassination. ....

Through intermediary companies, he even bought goods from the United States, including the spectrometers, which are on the Nuclear Suppliers Group's list of restricted, dual-use equipment, and pistols that North Korean leaders ardently collected.

"They all knew this was for North Korea," he says, speaking of the middlemen he worked with. But his offers were difficult to resist, he says, because he paid in cash, 30% over the usual asking price. ....

"Tomorrow or after tomorrow I will go into hiding again." He smiles and assures a listener that he can easily disappear because he knows Austria so well. Or maybe he will go abroad.

First, however, he will have to see the Austrian police about all the illegal dealings he was involved in during his two decades in the service of the North Korean government.

His next appointment is to officially apply for asylum because Kim Jong Ryul is no incognito refugee in Austria anymore.

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