Kim Jong-il's Armored Train Gets Another Outing

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has used  his special armored train on all six of his visits to China since 2000. On his way to Moscow in the summer of 2001, he was on the train for 24 days, and he also uses it for longer trips within North Korea.

A South Korean intelligence officer said the reason he prefers the train is because it is safe and makes security easy.

According to intelligence agencies in South Korea and the United States, Kim's special train is bulletproof and has a conference hall, reception room and bedroom. It is also equipped with high-tech communication facilities such as satellite phone and wall-mounted TV, enabling the ailing leader to be briefed on major issues and give orders at all times.

The Hong Kong Wen Wei Po newspaper in 2006 said Kim watched foreign TV channels and surfed the internet on the train on his way to China. North Korea's Central TV, in a documentary on Kim's visit to China in May 2004, showed parts of the interior of the train, which featured a cream sofa, desk and wall-mounted TV.

The train consists of around 90 carriages in total, but can be assembled according to needs. There are 19 stations in North Korea specially built for it. A source said, "Although the maximum speed of the train is well over 100km/h, it runs at around 60km/h for safety and to avoid vibrations." When the train is on the move within North Korea, another train travels in front to check the safety of the tracks.

The train Kim rode during his visit to China last week had 26 carriages, nine more than the 17 in May. It had 13 carriages when Kim visited China in 2001 and 2002. The reason, according to a source, is that it now needs to carry medical equipment as Kim's health deteriorated, and Kim's successor Jong-un may be traveling with him, which means the entourage is bigger.

Although there are rumors that Kim is acrophobic and cannot fly, he used an airplane when he visited Indonesia with his father Kim Il-sung in April 1965.

englishnews@chosun.com / Aug. 31, 2010 12:59 KST