Controversial former personal sushi chef to the late Dear Leader Kim Jong-il of North Korea, Kenji Fujimoto has entertained many readers with the lurid private details of Kim Jong-il’s private life since publishing his first-hand account of working for the Dear Leader in the world’s most secretive and repressive state.
Recounting epic feasts and spending sprees fit for kings, Kenji Fujimoto described the Kim Jong-il regime as one centered around paranoia and decadence.
Now the maligned sushi chef has returned to North Korea on the personal invitation of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, Kim Jong-il’s youngest son and successor.
Kenji Fujimoto was welcomed by first lady of the DPRK, Ri Sol-ju, who recounted the fond memories her husband the Supreme Leader had of Fujimoto when the youngest Kim was only a child.
Leaving behind a wife and children in Pyongyang, Fujimoto fled North Korea in 2001, fearing for his life. These concerns were laid to rest in his meeting with Kim Jong-un, who told him he had nothing to fear while also extending to him an invitation to visit North Korea at any time.
Recounting the meeeting, Fujimoto said:
“I jumped up to hug him, shouting ‘Comrade General’ and instantly burst into tears … He hugged me back, the first hug in 11 years. I said, ‘Fujimoto the betrayer is back now,’ and I apologized for all I did and all I disclosed about him. He said, ‘OK, don’t worry anymore.'”
On his visit to Pyongyang, Fujimoto visited various shops and commented on how much more abundantly supplied they are now than in the past:
“I went window shopping from the third day. There are plenty of goods in shops. That’s already a big difference. There was nothing there 10 years ago … I guess it changed drastically since the Kim Jong-un era started.”
Though his praise is effulgent, the authenticity of his declarations cannot be validated because Fujimoto may be praising the regime to protect his wife and children who remain in Pyongyang. Still, his account is one in a series of many, varied accounts that all tell the same story, or as Kenji Fujimoto says, “I was surprised at how gentle a person he is.”
Certainly, in comparison to his father, such plaudits would not be hard won. Only time will tell if the Kim Jong-un era is truly a different day for North Korea.
Related Article: Does Kim Jong-un Signal a New Direction for North Korea?