In North Korea, leaders have a tradition of taking long train journeys, and Mr. Kim is no exception. He often spends more than 20 hours traveling approximately 1,180 kilometers (733 miles) on a slow-moving train. His train is known to include a restaurant offering fine French wines and dishes like fresh lobster.
However, this train travels at a relatively slow speed of about 50 kilometers per hour (31 mph) due to its heavy armored protection. To put this in perspective, London’s high-speed rail runs at about 200 kilometers per hour, while Japan’s Shinkansen bullet trains can reach speeds of 320 kilometers per hour.
The long duration of the train journey also takes into account the challenges posed by North Korea’s sometimes outdated railway network. The train itself is called Taeyangho, which is the Korean word for the sun and symbolically references North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung.
This tradition of long train journeys began with Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, who used his train for trips to places like Vietnam and Eastern Europe. These luxurious trains are heavily guarded by security agents who scan routes and upcoming stations for potential threats.
Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il, who ruled North Korea until his death in 2011, was known to travel by train because he had a fear of flying. He famously took 10 days to travel to Moscow in 2001 for a meeting with President Putin.
During these train journeys, the leaders are known to enjoy opulent meals, including dishes from Russian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and French cuisine. Live lobsters and cases of red wine from Bordeaux and Burgundy are flown in to ensure fresh delicacies. Performers and singers often entertain guests on board.
Despite his occasional use of trains for travel within North Korea, Kim Jong Un has also been seen using other luxurious forms of transportation, such as private jets and high-end cars, which stand in stark contrast to the lives of ordinary North Koreans. These include a Soviet-made long-range aircraft named Chammae-1 and a specially transported Mercedes-Benz S-Class car.
Kim Jong Un has also been associated with a mysterious yacht, estimated to cost $7 million, though there is no clear confirmation of ownership. State media in North Korea have shown him using various modes of transportation, including boats, submarines, buses, and even a ski lift.