North Korea Spent Nearly $600,000 on Importing Horses from Russia in the Last Decade

North Korea has reportedly spent nearly $600,000 on importing horses from Russia in the last decade, including more than $75,000 worth of purebred horses during last year alone.

North Korea has spent $584,302 on importing at least 138 horses from Russia between 2010 and 2019, Reuters reports. This includes a dozen Russian horses worth $75,509.76, according to Russian customs data made available by the government, Seoul-based NK News reports.

The October purchase was said to be the country's largest buy since 2015, when it imported 61 horses for $192,204, Reuters reports.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was pictured last October on a white steed galloping across the snow-clad slopes of Mount Paektu, where he "took a bird's-eye view of mountains that looked like the high steep mountains of the revolution he has to pass in high spirits," reported the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), North Korea's state news agency, at the time.

The image of the North Korean leader at the top of the mountain was said to be symbolic of the country's strength as well as its outlook on its past and future.

"Reflected in the dignified mien of Kim Jong Un atop majestic Mount Paektu was the majesty of the illustrious commander looking far into the road of advance of a powerful socialist country that will achieve prosperity with its own efforts, meeting all headwinds with the storm of Mount Paektu," KCNA reported.

He was pictured again last December riding a white horse at Mount Paektu, accompanied by senior officials who were also on white horses. It has yet to be confirmed whether the horses seen in December were new purchases. The Russian customs data also revealed that at least two horses were sold to North Korea in August 2016 for less than $5,600, NK News reports.

In 2003, Russian President Vladimir Putin was said to have gifted Orlov Trotter horses to Kim Jong Il, the late father of Kim Jong Un, for his birthday, according to Artyom Lukin, an international relations scholar at the Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, Russia.

"The North Koreans came to like Orlov trotters. I think one reason they took to them is the Orlovs' magnificent, royal look as well as their good temper," Lukin told NK News.

"I am not sure the horses that Russia exported to North Korea in October 2019 were the same ones that Kim Jong Un and his entourage rode to Mount Paektu that same month and again in December," he added.

North Korea's horse purchases last year came as the country remains under international sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

Last month, the leader expressed his intention to potentially expand his arsenal of nuclear weapons, according to the country's state media. The threat was dismissed hours later by President Donald Trump, who boasted about his relationship with the North Korean leader: "He [Kim] likes me, I like him, we get along."

"He's [Kim Jong Un] representing his country, I'm representing my country, we have to do what we have to do," the president added.

"I think he's [Kim Jong Un] a man of his word, so we're going to find out, but I think he's a man of this word," the president said.

Myrim Riding Club, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2019
North Korean women are given horse riding lessons at Myrim Riding Club on February 6, 2019 in Pyongyang, North Korea Getty Images