Kim Jong-un skirts UN ban with luxury yacht
North Korean leader pictured next to multimillion-dollar vessel despite UN sanctions on sales of exclusive goods
The incongruous appearance of a multimillion-dollar yacht at a North Korean fishery station is being cited as evidence that Kim Jong-un has inherited his late father's taste for the trappings of wealth, and that he's found a way to get around UN sanctions to satisfy them.
Spotted in the background of photos of Kim published by the state-run KCNA news agency, the vessel was identified by the NK News web site on Tuesday as a 29-metre Princess 95MY.
Built by British-based Princess Yachts, the 95MY is a slightly earlier version of the 98MY that the company presently sells for US$8.7 million - but is no less sumptuous. Secondhand versions of the 95MY go for up to US$7 million.
The vessel has four double berths, three with en-suite bathrooms, as well as accommodation for at least three other passengers. Princess PR images show leather sofas, a flat-screen television, discreet lighting and a dining table large enough to seat eight people.
The company's brochure describes the yacht - which has a cocktail bar - as "astonishingly graceful".
Kim's father, Kim Jong-il, was thwarted in his attempts to purchase luxury yachts as a result of the 2006 UN Security Council decision - Resolution 1718 - to ban the sale of luxury goods to North Korea.
In 2009, Italy intervened to halt the export of two Azimut yachts that were believed to be bound for the Kim family compound in Wonsan, on the east coast of the Korean peninsula.
His son appears to have circumnavigated the ban.
Satellite images obtained by NK News show a large, newly built boat shed at the Wonsan compound, which Kim reportedly used as his base for a 10-day tour of facilities on North Korea's East Coast last month.
In photos of the tour, he is pictured surrounded by military officers as he inspects the "August 25th Fishery Station". A corner of the yacht is caught in the background of one photo, allowing an expert quoted by NK News to identify it.
The question is how the yacht slipped under the radar of UN agencies that monitor shipments to North Korea.
Princess Yachts has distributors in both South Korea and Japan, although it is considered unlikely that either would have sold a vessel directly to the North Korean regime.
"My company has not sold any vessels to North Korea," a spokesman for Princess Yachts North China, based in Dalian , told the South China Morning Post. "I have heard of this story, but there are lots of other dealers in the region."
The yacht may instead have been purchased in a private deal with an owner. The company is carrying out an internal investigation into how their yacht ended up in North Korea, NK News reported.
Even before his father's death, in December 2011, Kim was reportedly following in his father's footsteps by setting up overseas bank accounts and splashing out on luxuries, including a collection of pedigree dogs.
According to South Korean intelligence reports, Kim Jong-il amassed US$4 billion in secret accounts in European banks and had been siphoning off as much as US$300 million every year from the national coffers to finance a lavish lifestyle.
Before sanctions began to bite, North Korea imported more than US$100 million of top-quality wines and liquor, cars and other luxury goods a year, according to a report in South Korea's Chosun newspaper.
Kim Jong-il reportedly adored pedigree dogs and bought dozens of German shepherds, shih tzus and other breeds from France and Switzerland every year. The paper said he also purchased expensive foreign dog food, shampoo and other pet products, as well as bringing foreign vets to Pyongyang to care for them.
In its latest report on North Korea, the UN World Food Programme said that a two-year, US$200 million programme would begin in July to fight malnutrition among 2.4 million women and children deemed most at risk.
North Korea denies using Adolf Hitler's manifesto as leadership guide
North Korea angrily denied a report that its ruler used Adolf Hitler's manifesto as a leadership guide. An article by New Focus International, an online news portal run by North Korean defectors, said Kim Jong-un gave copies of Mein Kampf to his top officials, urging them to study it as a leadership skills manual. He handed out translations of the German dictator's book at the time of his birthday in January, it said, citing an unnamed North Korean official working in China. The story was picked up by all major South Korean newspapers yesterday. The North's police agency later called the report a "thrice-cursed crime" aimed at belittling its leader and threatened to kill the "human scum" behind the article.