The Luxury Homes of the N.Korean Elite

Satellite images show that there are more than 70 luxury residences and villas for North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and the ruling clique, Radio Free Asia reported on Tuesday.

The U.S.-funded radio station quoted satellite photo analyst Curtis Melvin as saying the villas are concentrated in Yongsong District in Pyongyang, Sinuiju, Wonsan, Hamhung, and Hoechon. They are typically a hybrid of Korean and Western-style buildings in thick forest with lakes and manicured gardens.

Some 20 residential complexes in Pyongyang, Sinuiju, Wonsan, Hyesan, Kanggye, Mt. Myohyang, Hungnam, and Sinchon even have exclusive train stations.

Most of Kim Jong-il's own residences are surrounded by walls and security checkpoints, and trains stations are sometimes inside the compounds, Melvin said.

The paranoid leader has never used airplanes and preferably travels by special armored train.

South Korean intelligence speculate that Kim has as many as six exclusive trains with a total of about 90 cars and 19 train stations. Kim owns up to 33 villas in the mountains or on the beach across North Korea, they believe.

The Daily Telegraph last Saturday reported the chronically impoverished country is spending upwards of US$150 million building luxury residences for Kim's son and heir Jong-un in Pyongyang and near a hot springs area in North Hamgyong Province.

englishnews@chosun.com / Jan. 05, 2011 07:44 KST