Kim Jong-il, the secretive head of North Korea’s Stalinist regime, has a 10,000-bottle wine cellar, favors Mazda RX-7s and tuna sushi, and once sent his wife and children on an unannounced vacation to Tokyo Disneyland, according to the man who served as his personal chef for more than a decade.
Kenji Fujimoto is the pseudonym for the Japanese chef who was recruited by Mr. Kim to come to Pyongyang in the early 1980s, becoming the exclusive sushi chef to the North’s “Dear Leader” in 1988.
Revelations from his memoir, “Kim Jong-il’s Chef,” have produced banner headlines in South Korean and Japanese newspapers since the book came out late last month.
In one of the book’s racier scenes, Mr. Fujimoto describes a banquet in “a rural city” where the president suddenly ordered the dancing women hired as entertainment to strip.
The women, known as the “Group for Pleasure,” were a frequent presence at Mr. Kim’s banquets, where Japanese marching songs were often played.
The author depicts Mr. Kim as smart but hot-tempered, feasting on imported cuisine and cognac even as ordinary North Koreans faced famine and deprivation.
“His banquets often started at midnight and lasted until morning,” Mr. Fujimoto said in an interview with Japan’s Shukan Post. “As far as I knew, the longest banquet lasted for four days.
“All executives invited to the long banquets were not allowed to sleep until Kim Jong-il went to bed. It was torture for them.”
There are some substantive revelations in the memoir, including Mr. Kim’s reported admission that he had hoped to use a diplomatic opening in the waning days of the Clinton administration — capped by Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright’s visit to Pyongyang in October 2000 — to “bypass” South Korea and Japan and cut a deal directly with the United States.
The North Korean leader also is depicted as having long had a fascination with nuclear weapons, telling the author that “without nuclear weapons, we will be attacked.”
The book also described what might have been an accident at a North Korean nuclear facility in 1995. Mr. Kim is described as having shown no emotion when an aide informed him that workers at a nuclear facility had taken sick, apparently from a radiation leak.
And Mr. Kim, who succeeded his father, Kim Il-sung, as supreme leader in 1994, is said in the book to favor his third and youngest son, Kim Jung-woon, as the third-generation leader in the communist dynasty.
Western speculation has focused on the middle son, Kim Jung-chul, as being groomed by his father for the top slot. Kim Jung-chul is said to have support within North Korea’s powerful military.
But the personal details and high living behind the walls of Mr. Kim’s presidential retreats have garnered the most attention.