|▲ Kim Jong Il in his special train when he visited in Russia in 2002 ⓒ Yonhap News|
Of the many rumors around, one rumor suggests that Kim Jong Il is acrophobic and hence cannot travel on planes.
However in 1965, Kim Jong Il visited Indonesia with Kim Il Song on his personal plan. When his second wife, Sung Hye Rim filmed her last movie at Mt. Baekdu, “the Fate of a Defense Force,” he even traveled to the mountain in a helicopter to see her.
Nonetheless, it has been 40 years since Kim Jong Il has boarded a plane and traveled overseas. Even as Secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party, his visits to China in June 1983, May 2000, January 2001, April 2004 and most recently January 2006, has been on his private special train.
Furthermore, even in his visit to Russia in 2001 and 2002 where he traveled to the far eastern regions, Kim Jong Il still used his train. It takes 24 days to travel to and from Pyongyang to Moscow, which has acquired Kim Jong Il his “Guinness book” title in the international society.
The former Russian President Vladimir Putin even offered use of his personal plane but was surprised to find that Kim Jong Il opted to travel via train.
In addition to this, Kim Jong Il travels to various regions throughout the country on more than 100 occasions every year and on the whole travels via the train. Where does Kim Jong Il’s extreme passion of trains come from?
◆ Visit to Moscow via train… “Guinnes book” title =
Analysts argue that the first and main reason is a terror threat. The possible success of terrorizing a plane is close to 100%.
Kim Jong Il has organized a plane terror himself and knows very well the dangers that could arise. The most notarized case is the bomb on the Korean Airlines Flight 858 in 1987. At the time, investigations obtained a confession from a North Korean spy Kim Hyun Hee who testified that he had been following the order made by Kim Jong Il.
Furthermore, claims suggest that Kim Jong Il made an order for a plane crash that occurred in North Korea during the mid-1970s. A plane of Chosun Airline made in Russia had departed Soonan Airport in Pyongyang and headed for Paris, but exploded immediately after take-off. On board were 100 creative artists and crew.
Most of the passengers on board were of South Korean descent and prior had not been given opportunities to travel overseas. It seems that the terror was organized with intent to keep his love affairs with movie star Sung Hye Rim a secret. The pilot was North Korea’s greatest aviator Kim Marn Eok, (head aviator responsible for Kim Il Song’s personal plane) which further supports these suspicious rumors.
Another reason seems to be that Kim Jong Il does not want to expose himself to hostile countries. One North Korean source revealed, “North Korea’s fear of the U.S. exceeds our imagination.”
What’s more, Kim Jong Il’s special train is known to be able to endure explosive materials. On his visit to Russia in 2001, two additional trains paved the way for the special train arriving early to ensure that security and schedule went according to plan. A policeman was placed every 100m along the railroad. This job alone needed 93,000 participants and including all the security officers placed at each station where Kim Jong Il rested, more than 100,000 people were supervised for the trip.
A Russian newspaper Izvestiya reported at the time, “The spirit that appeared at Yaroslasvsky Station on the 3rd (August) was the Communism’s manes.”
Even when Kim Jong Il travels within his own country, he uses the train. Lee Young Kook once Kim Jong Il’s bodyguard said, “Whenever General Kim travels, various cars, trains and boats are also mobilized at the same time to disguise the means of travel.”
In the case of travel via train, a pre-train departs 2 hours early, then the actual train and then a post-train. You cannot know which train Kim Jong Il is traveling and no one is prohibited to hover along the railroad during these 6~8hours.
◆ Riding the train to experience the lives of the people? =
In a book “Kim Jong Il’s Popularity” Kang Suk Joo, North Korea’s Foreign Minister wrote, “Kim Jong Il takes the train to feel closer to the people’s lifestyle” showing his appraisals for the general.
A female Russian reporter who visited Pyongyang in 2002 once questioned Kim Jong Il, “Why do you travel on trains?” He responded, “What can I see if I travel on the plane? I want to see Russia’s beauty with my very own eyes.” He added, “If I travel on the train, I can only see (Russia’s) politicians and foreign relations. However, if I travel via the train, I can meet people of all backgrounds, which is much more interesting.”
Nevertheless, the train Kim Jong Il rides is a little different to the trains which average commoners take. In the first carriage, there are 5 single beds and the districts in which he travels are all facilitated with fast GPS and internet systems. Additionally, the stations all facilitate a banquet hall, meeting rooms, separate carriages for the police as well as 2 Mercedes-Benz on stand-by. Furthermore, the train caters a wide-screen television to watch movies and a parlor with karaoke machines.
The train is also topped with French wine as Kim Jong Il is known for his like of red wine. Undoubtedly, Kim Jong Il’s favorite dish shark’s fin also awaits him at his table. The ingredients for Kim Jong Il’s special meals are all transported by plane and the wastes from these dishes are sealed and even returned to North Korea.
On the other hand, there are rumors that the explosion which occurred at Yongchun Station following Kim Jong Il’s return from a visit to China in 2004 was an attempted assassination. What are the options for Kim Jong Il who now fears travel via air and land? Possibly sea? It will be interesting to see Kim Jong Il’s choice of travel on his next overseas trip.