Kim Jong Il goes on a salad dressing run

There’s a lot of mystery surrounding North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s current trip to China. For one, why’s it so hard for him to get salad dressing? The Telegraph reports: The 69-year-old leader of North Korea slipped out of his suite at the Yangzhou State Guest House at around four o’clock on Monday afternoon ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
KCNA/AFP/Getty Images
KCNA/AFP/Getty Images
KCNA/AFP/Getty Images

There's a lot of mystery surrounding North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's current trip to China. For one, why's it so hard for him to get salad dressing? The Telegraph reports:

There’s a lot of mystery surrounding North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s current trip to China. For one, why’s it so hard for him to get salad dressing? The Telegraph reports:

The 69-year-old leader of North Korea slipped out of his suite at the Yangzhou State Guest House at around four o’clock on Monday afternoon and strolled for five minutes to the Suguo supermarket.

Kim, who is a known gourmet, reportedly then accosted one sales clerk and asked "Where can I find oil for a salad?"

Good olive oil is, of course, hard to come by in North Korea, where the World Food Programme said in March there were more than six million people on the brink of starvation and requiring urgent food aid.[…]

But while the North Korean leader paid special attention to the rice and oil in the supermarket, which closed at 1.30pm especially for him, he came away empty-handed. He went on to board his special train before heading to Nanjing and then to Beijing.

I always seem to run out of olive oil at the most inopportune times so I can sympathize with Dear Leader, but given that there are no quotes or even "according to’s" in the story, I’m tempted to say "pics or it didn’t happen." (Unlike Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi’s well-documented Venezuelan shopping trip in 2009.) The Kim anecdote does give an opportunity to recount the litany of Kim food-related lore though: 

Mr Kim’s appetite, meanwhile, has been the subject of several legends, including that he likes to have his sashimi carved from a live fish and that he hates anchovies on his pizza.

According to one of his chefs, Mr Kim sends trusted couriers to fetch him back Danish bacon, Iranian caviar and Thai mangos. A nephew of his first wife, meanwhile, relates that the Dear Leader likes to have his rice cooked over wood that has been cut down from Mount Paektu, Korea’s sacred mountain.

Sure. Why not?

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows the Statue of Liberty holding a torch with other hands alongside hers as she lifts the flame, also resembling laurel, into place on the edge of the United Nations laurel logo.
An illustration shows the Statue of Liberty holding a torch with other hands alongside hers as she lifts the flame, also resembling laurel, into place on the edge of the United Nations laurel logo.

A New Multilateralism

How the United States can rejuvenate the global institutions it created.

A view from the cockpit shows backlit control panels and two pilots inside a KC-130J aerial refueler en route from Williamtown to Darwin as the sun sets on the horizon.
A view from the cockpit shows backlit control panels and two pilots inside a KC-130J aerial refueler en route from Williamtown to Darwin as the sun sets on the horizon.

America Prepares for a Pacific War With China It Doesn’t Want

Embedded with U.S. forces in the Pacific, I saw the dilemmas of deterrence firsthand.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, seen in a suit and tie and in profile, walks outside the venue at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. Behind him is a sculptural tree in a larger planter that appears to be leaning away from him.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, seen in a suit and tie and in profile, walks outside the venue at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. Behind him is a sculptural tree in a larger planter that appears to be leaning away from him.

The Endless Frustration of Chinese Diplomacy

Beijing’s representatives are always scared they could be the next to vanish.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomes Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman during an official ceremony at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, on June 22, 2022.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomes Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman during an official ceremony at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, on June 22, 2022.

The End of America’s Middle East

The region’s four major countries have all forfeited Washington’s trust.