Kim Jong Un Was a Lonely Child Who Played With His Middle-Aged Japanese Sushi Chef, Says New Book About Dictator's Upbringing

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un was a lonely and privileged child whose playmate was a middle-aged Japanese sushi chef who worked for his father Kim Jong Il, according to a new book about the young leader.

The book—"The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un," written by The Washington Post's Beijing bureau chief Anna Fifield—depicts the young Kim as an intelligent, confident but isolated child as he grew to become heir apparent to the secretive kingdom.

Fifield interviewed Kenji Fujimoto, who moved from Japan to North Korea to make sushi in the leader's household. Fujimoto, who now runs a sushi restaurant in Pyongyang, recalled how Kim Jong Il's children wanted for nothing, though had few friends to actually spend time with.

According to an extract of the book published by The Washington Post, Fujimoto was one of a team of chefs who would serve the family luxury dishes from across the world, even as regular North Koreans struggled to find enough food to survive.

But as well as serving the future leader top-of-the-line sushi, Fujimoto also became a friend to Kim and his brother Jong Chol.

Schooled by home tutors, the two boys only had each other for company, as their older half brother Jong Nam—who was assassinated in 2017—lived in a different location and their little sister Yo Jong—now a close advisor to Kim—was too young to play with them, Fifield explained.

"He was a bit lonely when he was little," Fujimoto told Fifield in 2016. "I became a kind of playmate to him; we became like friends," he explained.

It was Kim's mother, Ko Yong Hui, who suggested Fujimoto diversify his role from personal chef to playmate. He was offered—or told about—the new job after flying a kite with Kim one day in the enormous garden at the family compound in Sinchon, some 50 miles south of Pyongyang.

To Kim's delight, Fujimoto was able to get the kite flying, the book explains. "That's good. Thanks to Fujimoto, the kite is flying," Ko told her sons. About a month later, he was asked to become their playmate.

Though he said he was surprised given his role as chef and the age difference between him and his two new friends, Fujimoto noted he had little choice in the matter. He also wondered whether him being Japanese made him exotic and more interesting to the boys, even though Japan is a historic enemy and favored propaganda target of the North Koreans.

Fujimoto said he would take the two boys out fishing on Kim Jong Il's private boat, and they would angle for sea bass—which was the leader's favorite sushi. Each time the chef would catch a fish, young Kim would demand to hold the rod and shout, "I caught it!"

The book details the extreme luxury the Kim family enjoyed. The kitchens were stuffed with exotic and expensive food; their houses had expensive televisions, games consoles and cinemas for entertainment; and the "gardens" were huge parks with artificial waterfalls, artificial lakes and swimming pools.

The family would zip around the gardens on golf carts or mopeds, and Kim was given his first vehicle at the age of 7—a car modified so that the small child could drive it. The book also said Kim carried a weapon—a Colt .45 pistol—from the age of 11.

Kim Jong Un, North Korea, lonely, child
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un is pictured at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 25, 2019 in Vladivostok, Russia. Getty/Mikhail Svetlov
Kim Jong Un Was a Lonely Child Who Played With His Middle-Aged Japanese Sushi Chef, Says New Book About Dictator's Upbringing | World
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