Russian chefs will indulge a request from North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un to enjoy the finest in local Russian cuisine during a summit between Kim and Russian President Vladimir Putin in eastern Vladivostok this week, the governor of the city’s Primorsky region said on Wednesday.
Kim arrived to fanfare in Russia on Wednesday after departing the day before in his preferred form of travel, a dilapidated North Korean government train. He and Putin are scheduled to meet Thursday in eastern Vladivostok, but Kim penciled in time to tour the sights and enjoy what Russia has to offer on his first trip to the country as communist dictator.
Kim and his senior diplomats often use foreign relations as an excuse to engage in tourism abroad, typically at the expense of the host country. After over half a century of communism, North Korea is an impoverished state refugees who escaped say forces its people to eat rats, boil grass, and look for sustenance in cow manure to survive.
In contrast, Kim can expect a “simple” meal of borscht, Russian dumplings, and “definitely” caviar, Primorsky Region Governor Oleg Kozhemyako said, according to the Russian news agency TASS.
Kozhemyako described the menu as “the dishes that distinguish the traditional Russian cuisine” – as requested by the North Korean delegation – but that some North Korean dishes may also appear as Kim brought personal chefs with him.
Kim’s diet has already made headlines. Upon arriving in Hasan, a border town in Russia, the dictator received a welcome gift of karavai, a local bread typically given to guests with salt in what Russian propaganda outlet RT referred to as the “bread and salt ceremony.” Kim ate some of the bread after a group of girls presented it to him. TASS claims that the karavai generated a small controversy as some Russian outlets reported that Kim refused the bread, but agreed with RT that the reports were false.
Kim then greeted several senior Russian officials who met him at the station, stating he was “happy to visit” and hoped he would return.
“I came to Russia with the warm sentiments of our people. I hope that this visit will be successful and useful. I hope that during negotiations with President Putin I will be able to discuss issues of the settlement on the Korean Peninsula and the development of our bilateral relations in detail,” Kim said, according to Russian media, as part of a larger interview with the outlet Rossiya-24 that has yet to air in full.
Before arriving in Vladivostok, Kim visited the “The House of Kim Il Sung,” known officially as the “House of Russian-Korean Friendship,” on the Russian/North Korean border and greeted several other Russian officials before departing for his final destination.
North Korean state media took the rare step of announcing that Kim had departed for Russia on Wednesday, but has not yet confirmed his arrival. Instead, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that “the leading officials of the Party, government and armed forces organs wholeheartedly wished Kim Jong-un a safe foreign trip” and “The private train departed amid the warm send-off by the leading officials of the Party, government and armed organs and the people.”
KCNA listed among those in Kim’s entourage were his foreign minister, several senior communist Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) members, and three Politburo members. South Korea’s JoongAng Ilbo noted that his sister Kim Yo-Jong – reportedly already be in Vladivostok – and wife Ri Sol-ju were not listed among those on Kim’s train.
Upon arriving in Vladivostok, Kim is expected to travel via motorcade to Far Eastern Federal University, where he is expected to meet Putin tomorrow. The two will likely discuss trade – hampered significantly by international sanctions, though Washington has repeatedly accused Russia of violating them – and North Korea’s illegal nuclear weapons program.
Following the meeting, Putin will depart to China, where he will attend a summit on the nation’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a plot to control global infrastructure that China sells to nations with weakened economies like Russia by offering predatory loans. Kim will remain in Vladivostok. Reports published last week suggest that he may tour a local aquarium or visit the world-renowned Mariinsky ballet theater; reports placed his top aide Kim Chang-son at those locations last week, apparently to ensure they will be of interest.