Kim Jong-un loves his luxury cars

Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin sitting in the back seat of Putin’s Aurus Senat. Image | KCTV

Kim Jong-un is a big fan of luxury cars and doesn’t let the fact that most citizens can’t secure their next meal distract him from this passion.

In this regard, he is different from leaders in other countries. For one thing, they tend to use domestically produced cars if the country makes them.

Yoon Suk-yeol in South Korea, for example, is driven around in a locally-made Hyundai Equus Stretch Edition. The American president uses a General Motors Cadillac. Japan’s prime minister has a Toyota Century. The official state car for Xi Jinping in China is a Hongqi L5. In Russia, Vladimir Putin uses an Aurus Senat, produced by Aurus Motors. 

North Korea has had an automotive industry since 1958. There are five carmakers, Pyeonghwa Motors, Sungri Motor Plant, Pyongyang Auto Works, Chongjin Bus Works and Kim Jong Tae Locomotive Works. But nothing they could produce would excite Kim Jong-un.

His are all imported – despite UN sanctions. 

The image of him posturing in his luxury foreign car in front of his poor, shoeless people, while promoting hyper-nationalism captures the essential contradiction of his brand of dictatorship.

In Russia in September, when Kim was visiting the Vostochny Cosmodrome spaceport in Russia, he showed interest in Putin’s car and was invited to sit in it. His delighted childlike reaction was broadcast worldwide. Putin followed up by sending him one.

The car was a “most excellent gift,” Kim’s sister, Yo-jong, enthused. “A clear sign of the close friendship between the two leaders of the DPRK and Russia.” 

North Korea’s media gave no details, but the Kremlin confirmed it was an Aurus. “Like many auto enthusiasts, he liked the car, and so the decision was made to present it to him as a gift,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov revealed.

The retail price for the normal Aurus Senat is between around USD 400,000 and 850,000, depending on options. The presidential version is in a different league. Putin’s exclusive Aurus is an armored vehicle that weighs 7 tons. It is capable of withstanding bomb and chemical attacks, boasting enough stability for passengers to survive even when submerged in water. The production cost is reported to be 124 billion roubles (USD 127 million). 

This equates to around 400,000 tons of corn in North Korea at current prices, about what it takes to feed the entire population for 40 days

Transportation Department 2 of the Secretariat, on the third floor of the Central Committee building, is responsible for maintaining the Kim family’s vehicles. The garage houses hundreds of luxury Mercedes, Volkswagens and Lexuses, as well as gifts for high-ranking officials, cars for the Royal Orchestra, and the Moranbong Orchestra.Most North Koreans, of course, don’t have cars. They use servi-cha delivery vehicles, taxis, buses, trams, and carts and bicycles. Absent those options, they walk. 

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