originally published in The Atlantic Wire
The world knows so little about the inner workings of the North Korean regime that the appearance of Kim Jong-Il’s former sushi chef at a press conference held here at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Japan — well, it was bound to get scrutinized for shreds of new information. For instance, how old is the new young ruler of the Hermit Kingdom?
Kenji Fujimoto, the alias of the Japanese sushi chef who spent more than a decade being the official cook of the North Korean dictator and his cohorts — and who recently returned to visit the North Korean dictators’ family — revealed Kim Jog-un’s date of birth as January 8, 1983. Until now, not even The New York Times didn’t know that. Now the whole world can wish him a happy 3-0 next year.
After the press conference, in an exclusive ten-second interview with The Atlantic Wire, Mr. Fujimoto also revealed Kim Jong-Il’s favorite sushi.
“Definitely, Toro. Toro (fatty tuna) was his favorite.” This revelation sheds light on why the Supreme Leader was a little chubby. Maybe.
After serving as the Kims’s sushi chef, Fujimoto fled North Korea by supposedly visiting Japan in 2001 to “purchase food supplies,” but he never returned. Fujimoto does say, however, that he personally promised Kim Jong-Un, then a pudgy teenager believed to have attended high school in Switzerland from age 13 to 16, that he would come to North Korea some day.
Earlier this year, Fujimoto told The New York Times that he adopted his alias because of fear of retaliation from Japanese right-wing extremists for his “appearing friendly with a nation that abducted Japanese citizens in the 1970s and ‘80s.”
Fujimoto was also living in the fear of being killed by North Korean agents for returning to Japan and writing a book exposing the North Korean leaders’ luxurious lifestyle. However, on June 16 last year, “a messenger from North Korea” showed up at his door to tell him his family in North Korea missed him. He was also told that there was another individual who missed him deeply, the current ruler of the country, little Kim Jong-Un.
After holding suspicions about a file sent through the messenger by the North Korean National Defense Minister, he finally agreed to return to North Korea to meet Kim during a two weeks visit this past July.
Kim Jong-Un arranged the the first meeting with his sushi chef after 11 years of absence as banquet for him in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. Kim Jong-Un invited “family related friends rather than politicians,” Mr. Fujimoto said.
When the doors of the meeting hall opened and revealed Kim Jong-Un, Fujimoto immediately embraced him and wept, apologizing for being a “traitor.” The new leader apparently forgave him.
Fujimoto said he had last seen the young dictator when he was only 18 years old; he was impressed with how Jong-Un had grown up into a young adult who seemed to be very optimistic about tackling the various economic issues of his country and who wished to improve the life conditions of his people.
“What struck me the most during my visit to Pyongyang was to see how happy people looked in the street,” Fujimoto said. “I think Kim Jong-Un would like to reach out and shake hands with the USA.”
Fujimoto says that the North Korean leader is “no exception” among world leaders in his choice to enjoy a luxurious life while the people of his country are poor. He said he hardly understood why the North Korea leadership is harshly criticized for this.
The word of a sushi chef aside, there still remains plenty of mystery about Kim Jong-un’s biography, including his time abroad in Switzerland. Unlike the United States and France, Switzerland has semi-cordial relations with the hermit kingdom. However, the director of the school in Koenig, in the suburbs of the country’s capital of Bern, told the Japanese press that “the North Korean student who attended his school was not enrolled under the name Kim Jong-un.”
However, the child in the class portrait obtained by a reporter from Mainichi, resembled the current dictator very strongly. Several Swiss classmates told Japanese reporters that “the North Korean boy used Sony mini-discs” and “kept posters of former American basketball super stars in his room.”
According to Fujimoto, Kim Jong-un now likes to play with bigger toys. He said he expects Kim Jong-un to launch North Korea’s next rocket on December 17, the first anniversary of his father’s death. It has been widely reported that North Korea is preparing to once again show its military might to the world by launching a rocket this month.