I’m sure everyone has a fascination with the conundrum that is North Korea…

Some surreal quotes from this long, but extremely worthwhile, article detailing a chef’s adventures in North Korea:

Its staff of 200 approved every element of Kim’s diet. Each grain of Kim’s rice was hand-inspected for chips and cracks—only perfectly shaped rice, grown in North Korea, was approved. […] All were impressed when Fujimoto served the freshest meal of all: still-living fish he’d fillet alive by cutting around the organs—a skill he’d learned while working at Japan’s Tsukiji fish market.

As a wedding prank, Kim Jong-il had the unconscious Fujimoto’s pubic hair shaved off.

A month after the wedding, Fujimoto and Jong-yo snuck off to meet her family. Her relative success as a singer had not bettered their circumstances. Fujimoto discovered her family of six living in a single room. Four of them would later die of asphyxiation when, on a cold night without heat, they brought a bucket of hot coals into their room for warmth.

 And every time he asked me to kiss his face, he always said to me, If you betray me, you will… Then he would go silent and make a gesture of a knife going into my stomach.”

He remained on Kim’s good side, with the occasional lapse. He once failed to clean his room at a guesthouse, and Kim decided to make an example of him by taking away his kitchen. For six months, Fujimoto was forced to prepare sushi in a gymnasium.

As the famine became devastating, Kim Jong-il had the former agricultural minister’s body exhumed from the Patriots’ Cemetery and subjected to a posthumous execution by firing squad.

I said, “But they were sent to the coal mine, your wife and children, to be re-educated.”

Fujimoto seemed untroubled by this. He said he’d done all that he could. Right away, he started writing letters of apology to Kim Jong-il.

“And it worked,” he said. “After six years, they were freed.”

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