Most people who manage to escape North Korea are everyday folk who flee from the countryside, unable to shed light on the inner-most workings of Pyongyang. Meet Kenji Fujimoto, a Japanese sushi chef who spent years working as Kim Jong Il’s personal chef and close confidant. Author Adam Johnson has an amazing interview in GQ with Fujimoto about his time behind the bamboo curtain. It’s very long, but here are some highlights:
- Kim had a “brigade” of young Korean women, known as the “Joy Division”; most were forced to join before turning 16. They “were maintained to provide entertainment, massages, and sexual gratification … Depending on his mood, the Dear Leader might order them to sing sentimental songs, disco dance, strip naked, or hold spontaneous boxing matches.”
- Each grain of Kim’s rice was inspected by hand to weed out any that were chipped or cracked.
- Fujimoto was the one who introduced Kim Jong Un to NBA basketball. (He’s now BFFs with Dennis Rodman.)
- Fujimoto would fly to Beijing to pick up McDonald’s for Kim.
- After Fujimoto failed to adequately clean his room at a guesthouse, Kim took his kitchen away for 6 months and made him prepare sushi in a gymnasium.
- Kim had a motorized boogie board.
- Fujimoto was arrested while buying fish in Tokyo in 1996 and ended up staying in the country for 18 months. During his time there, Kim sent an assassin to kill him. When Fujimoto returned to North Korea, Kim admitted sending the assassin, but told him he changed his mind and not to worry.
- Kim was a big fan of Iron Chef. Fujimoto ultimately escaped from North Korea by showing him an episode where the secret ingredient was sea-urchin roe, knowing Kim would immediately send him to Japan to buy some