- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 8, 2001

MOSCOW — A new insight into the world of Kim Jong-il, North Korea's Stalinist leader, has revealed that one of his favorite dishes is roast donkey.

Mr. Kim, known as the "dear leader" in his impoverished nation of 22 million, has been serving the delicacy to dignitaries on his marathon visit by train across Russia.

At first, his guests were told they were eating "heavenly cow," Russia's RIA news agency reported, quoting one Russian who had sampled the supposed treat.

The euphemism had been coined out of respect for Mr. Kim's late father, Kim Il-sung, the unnamed Russian official explained: "As it is inappropriate to say that the leader, son and heir of Kim Il-sung, eats donkey, the dish received such an original and poetic name."

During his 11-day journey from North Korea, across Siberia and into European Russia, Mr. Kim has also been dining on fresh lobsters kept in special tanks.

However, it was not clear whether live donkeys had been brought on the 21-car armored train to ensure a supply of fresh meat.

Not everyone has been impressed by Mr. Kim's regal progress through Russia, accompanied by paranoid, obsequious North Korean officials and an army of Russian snipers.

Television pictures of the train in St. Petersburg yesterday showed a smashed window patched over with cardboard. The footage followed reports last week that the train had been fired at in Siberia.

The Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda last week printed what it said was a frame from a video taken during a stopover in Siberia that showed what experts believed to be bullet holes under the window made by an AK-47.

North Korea's Moscow embassy said the report was "not true."

As for Mr. Kim, his poverty-stricken people have been known to eat grass to live. Although the indiscretions of the anonymous official provide the first hard evidence about the "dear leader's" own eating habits, just how the donkey delicacy tasted remains a mystery.

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