Thursday, February 19, 2004

it's lonely at the top
The reminisceneces of Kenji Fujimoto, personal chef to Kim Jong Il.

One day in 1992, as I was riding behind Kim Jong Il at a right-turning path, I noticed that his horse was standing by itself. Kim had fallen off the horse. It had apparently slipped on a bed of pebbles laid over some asphalt being repaired. Kim Jong Il had hit his head and shoulder quite hard and had fallen unconscious. A doctor was called immediately.

I'm not sure when he regained consciousness, but the next day we all returned to Pyongyang by his private train.

From that day, every evening at 10:00 P.M. for the next month, five or six of his administrative staff members and I would be injected with the same painkiller that Kim Jong Il was taking. He was afraid he would become addicted to it, and didn't want to be the only one.


Kim also drinks Czech beer and smokes Rothmans Royals. And note the following:

At this time several areas in North Korea were suffering from floods and food shortages. Whether he was aware of this or not, Kim Jong Il certainly seemed to be enjoying his Jet Ski races.

Indeed not. Mr Fujimoto was a guest of the Dear Leader - guest in the sense of a man too terrified to leave. But eventually, a cunning ruse secured his escape.

And then, at that moment, I remembered that my sister had dubbed several dozen of her more interesting videos of Japanese TV shows for me. Among them was a tape of a cooking program called The "Which Dish?" Show. I recalled that an exceedingly tasty-looking sea-urchin dish was featured on the show, and thought that I should show it to Kim Jong Il. I knew that he was very fond of sea urchin, and that once he saw the show, he would want to try the dish. That would be my chance. I would just have to suggest, "Shall I go to Hokkaido to buy sea urchins for you?"

I took the videotape to Kim Jong Il. Lo and behold, when he saw the sea-urchin dish, he exclaimed, "Wow, that looks really good!" Without missing a beat I made my pitch: "I will go to Rishiri Island, in Hokkaido, and buy some sea urchin. And I will reproduce the dish you just saw on this show."

Kim Jong Il replied, "That's a great idea. Go for it!"


via Arts and Letters Daily