The Telegraph has published a rather strange article about the gourmet pretensions of Kim Jong-Il, the dictator of North Korea. Here's an excerpt.
Although Kim was at the time renowned for his heft (only 5ft 2in tall, he weighed more than 14st [i.e. more than 196 pounds]), the North Korean was a gourmet, not a glutton. He took food seriously and had several thousand cookbooks. His palate was so sensitive that he could detect if the kitchen added a few grams too much sugar to the sushi rice. Before cooking the rice, the kitchen staff would inspect each grain individually and discard any blemished by irregularities of shape or colour. He ate only the choicest foods and loved the fatty cut of tuna known as toro.
Sometimes Fujimoto would prepare sashimi using a trick he had learnt at Tsukiji, slicing so the vital organs were spared and the fish was served writhing on the platter. Kim loved shark’s fin, a delicacy across Asia, and poshintang, a dog-meat soup that Koreans believe strengthens immunity and virility.
Money was no object when it came to food. Fujimoto made shopping trips around the world to pick up ingredients – to Iran and Uzbekistan for caviar, to Denmark for pork, to Thailand for mangoes, durians and papayas. On a whim, Kim once sent Fujimoto to pick up a box of his favourite rice cakes, which were scented with mugwort and available only at a department store in Tokyo. Fujimoto later evaluated the trip and put the cost of each bite-size morsel at $120.
. . .
Of course, there is nothing wrong with being a foodie – except when you are the leader of a small, impoverished country where almost everybody else is eating grass. Most of the excesses described above took place during the famine of the 1990s, which killed up to two million North Koreans, about 10 per cent of the population. And the statistics about the death toll do not tell the full story. Those who survived – much of the current population – suffer from chronic malnutrition. A study by South Korean anthropologists of North Korean children who had defected to China found that 18-year-old males were 5in shorter than South Koreans their age. Roughly 45 per cent of North Korean children under the age of five are stunted from malnutrition. It is impossible to calculate what percentage of the total food budget for 22 million people is squandered on this one person and his coterie of family and friends. In addition to his edibles, Kim is said to have a wine cellar with 10,000 bottles and, as has long been reported, to be the world’s largest customer of Hennessy’s top cognac.
In fact, many serious analysts of North Korea have mined reports of Kim’s eating habits for clues into the nature of the North Korean leader. The founder and former director of the CIA’s Centre for the Analysis of Personality and Political Behaviour, Jerrold M Post, in fact diagnosed Kim Jong-il as 'a malign narcissist’, in large part based on information about his eating habits. Kim 'has this special sense of self so that there is no contradiction between the exquisite care that goes into his own cuisine and the fact that half his population is starving,’ Post told me in an interview shortly after Fujimoto’s book was published.
Post, who has also profiled Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, was struck not only by the shamelessness with which Kim craved luxury, but also by his fussiness about how ordinary foods should be prepared. Each grain of rice had to be inspected, and, according to a memoir by one of Kim’s relatives, the rice had to be prepared the old-fashioned way over a wood fire using trees from Mount Paektu, a legendary peak straddling the Sino-Korean border that Kim claims (falsely) as his birthplace. Post suggested the elaborate preparation of the rice is in keeping with the ideological underpinnings of a system in which Kim and his father are treated as divine – more like the former cult of the Japanese emperor than a true communist regime. 'This is how you prepare food and water for a god. Nothing remotely imperfect should cross his lips,’ Post said.
There's more at the link. It's a sad, sick reflection on the evil of this man . . . yet he has nuclear weapons; supplies terroristic and hostile states with nuclear weapons know-how and the means to deliver them; and some 30,000 US servicemen are stationed at or near his borders right now, in harm's way. What a warped, twisted specimen of humanity!