Bruce Sunghak Jeong Deputy Director of Geosatellite Information Research Institute, Kyungpook University, South Korea. He used his Google Earth to identify his 30 luxurious villas and several private islands used by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his family on vacation. . He also discovered a fleet of five super-sized yachts. One of them has a 4-lane Olympic-sized pool.
The Kim family’s lavish lifestyle is the life of the vast majority of North Koreans who are struggling to make ends meet in an economy ravaged by international sanctions and a long suspension of trade with China due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The conditions are in stark contrast.
Sanctions imposed in response to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions are supposed to prevent the importation of luxury goods into the country, but Chung’s research shows that first families continue to live high lives. It doesn’t stop me from living.
Chung recently submitted his findings to RFA’s Korean Service. Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
RFA: How many of Kim Jong Un’s luxurious villas have you identified from satellite imagery?
Chung: In North Korea, there are 20 to 30 luxury villas used by Kim Jong-un’s family. Among them, Kim Jong-Il especially likes the villa in his hometown of Wonsan, Gangwon-do. The Wonsan facility features many great recreational facilities, including luxury cruise ships, marinas, horse riding ranges, shooting ranges, and water playgrounds, as can be seen in satellite imagery. In 2013, US former basketball player Dennis Rodman was invited twice, his February and his September, and Kim showed off his lavish entertainment facilities.
RFA: What does the facility in Wonsan look like on the latest satellite imagery?
Chung: In front of Wonsan Bettei is a long, soft white sandy beach. The sandy beach is famous for its outstanding scenery. his father, [former leader] Kim Jong Il also enjoyed fishing and swimming here. About 10 large and small villas stand side by side on a white sandy beach with a total length of 530m, and the view is good. A satellite image taken in January 2022 shows a blue-roofed 50-meter (164-foot) cruise ship in front of the villa. In front of the beach you can also see the building where Secretary Kim had lunch with Rodman. The promenades and gardens are well maintained. At a glance, you can see that it is a large-scale villa group.
RFA: We also identified Kim Jong Un’s cruise ship. Is it true that there are international standard pools and waterslides?
Jung: Yes, Kim Jong Il owns a luxury cruise ship. So far, he has identified four cruise ships at Wonsan Villa. Cruise ships are 50, 55, 60 and 80 meters (262.4 feet) in length. Besides these, he owns many small luxury boats. A 2.5m wide pool with four 50m lanes can be seen on the 80m cruise ship deck. This makes it an international standard size and allows 4 people to compete at the same time. You can also see four circular slides. A 55 meter long cruise ship has recently been refurbished. Roof Her deck has been extended from her 20m to her 40m and freshly painted.
RFA: Has one of Kim’s luxury cruise ships been confirmed missing?
Chung: Yes. A total of five luxury cruise ships have been confirmed in satellite imagery so far. One of them has already retired, and now there are only four of her left. It was 60 meters long and 9 meters wide and disappeared in November 2017. According to foreign media reports, the cruise ship has reached the end of its life and has been dismantled and decommissioned. All of Kim Jong Il’s cruise ships were introduced to the public in his 1990s. The average lifespan of each ship is estimated at about 30 years.
RFA: Have any of these luxury cruise ships violated UN sanctions against North Korea? Is there satellite evidence of sanctions violations?
Jeong: I think these cruise ships were introduced in the 1990s during the time of Kim Jong Il. UN sanctions against North Korea have been in place since the mid-2000s due to North Korea’s continued missile and nuclear tests. So these cruise ships must have been introduced before then. Luxury goods are items that are prohibited from trade with North Korea under UN sanctions, but North Korea secretly buys luxury goods such as cars, boats, and expensive whiskey, so it is advisable to purchase these goods. It looks like you can find a way.
RFA: After Rodman visited the area, he talked a lot about the surrounding islands. Do you see it in satellite photos?
Chung: There are three beautiful islands. Their names are Sado, Tongdeokdo, and Cheondo. Each island also has a ship mooring facility and its own villa. In an interview with the British daily The Sun, Rodman, who made his two visits to North Korea in 2013, said his luxury villa on one of these islands was a seven-star luxury hotel. said it looked like Overlooking the island, the villa sits in a wooded area. Rodman said it’s better than a luxury vacation in Hawaii or Spain.Even the richest people in the United States could not have enjoyed such luxury. [of the villa] teeth. Satellite imagery, however, shows that all islands are well-maintained and well-equipped with recreational facilities.
RFA: Kim Jong-un’s villas, luxury cruise ships and fantastic islands seem like a significant departure from the lives of ordinary North Koreans today. Do you agree?
Chung: I have been analyzing Kim’s villa and luxury cruise ships for a long time. They are always kept in pristine condition. I think a lot of resources and money will be spent to maintain them.The Kim family’s villa and cruise ship are extravagant beyond imagination for the general public. [what they are like]On the other hand, North Koreans who do not know anything [about the resorts] I am worried about Kim Jong Il. [each day].’ I am horrified that the propaganda works so well for the money that the North Korean people idolize him.
Translated by Claire Shinyoung Oh Lee, Leejin J. Chung. Written in English by Eugene Whong.