Passport

So that’s why Kim Jong Il is so happy…

Earlier this week, Passport speculated as to why the mood of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il improved so dramatically from Tuesday to Wednesday during his summit with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun. On Tuesday, Kim looked sullen and glum, but on Wednesday, he was all smiles, even asking Roh if he wanted to extend ...

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Earlier this week, Passport speculated as to why the mood of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il improved so dramatically from Tuesday to Wednesday during his summit with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun. On Tuesday, Kim looked sullen and glum, but on Wednesday, he was all smiles, even asking Roh if he wanted to extend his stay for a few more days. Was Kim putting on a show for the international community? Was he happy about the agreement to end the decades-long Korean War, or relieved about the agreement to dismantle nuclear weapons?

None of the above. Knowing Kim is a film buff, Roh gave him a stack of DVDs of South Korean movies and television shows. One was “Jewel in the Palace,” a television show about a cook for the Korean royal family back when the peninsula was unified. It stars Lee Yong-ae, rumored to be Kim’s favorite actress. For a guy who loves movies so much that he once kidnapped a director and actress and forced them to fulfill his cinematic vision, it’s a nice gift.

It’s also ironic, considering Pyongyang prohibits DVDs from the South. Here’s how the government enforces the ban, according to Reuters:

A routine tactic used by North Korean police is to cut the electricity to apartment blocks before a raid and then go to each home to check what is on video tapes or DVDs that have become stuck inside players.

The downside for Kim is that he’s going to have to enjoy his DVDs on an old television. It was rumored in the South Korean press that Roh would present Kim with a flat screen TV. That idea was scrapped – the TV would have violated UN sanctions prohibiting luxury good exports to the North.

UPDATE: Not to be outdone, Kim presented Roh with 4 tons of mushrooms. And not just any mushrooms – pine mushrooms, a Korean delicacy, which can sell for up to $654 per kilogram in South Korea. That means Kim’s gift is valued at about $2.6 million. Maybe Roh should have splurged for the flat screen after all.
 

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