North Korean leader Kim Jong-il spends hundreds of thousands of dollars importing and looking after his pedigree dogs while the country is making increasingly desperate requests for food aid to feed its starving people.
A source on Tuesday said the regime imports dozens of German Shepherds, Shih Tzu and other pet dogs from France and Switzerland every year as well as expensive pet shampoo and veterinary equipment and supplies. It "frequently flies in a veterinarian from France to check up on the dogs," the source added, paying altogether US$10,000 for the air fare and fees.
In 2008, the regime spent around $100 million on expensive liquor, cars, luxury goods and other items including pet dogs and their care products.
Kim Jong-il was an avid equestrian until the early 1990s, but after he suffered shoulder and back injuries from a riding accident in August 1992, he turned his affections to dogs, possibly under the influence of the late Ko Yong-hui, the mother of his third son and heir apparent Jong-un.
A North Korean defector recalled, "At one event at a vacation home in Wonsan in 2000, a small, white dog walked around the grounds without restraints while Kim Jong-il was eating, and he petted the dog whenever it came close to him." Kim occasionally brings his pet dogs along on his so-called on-the-spot guidance tours.
An equal-opportunities pet lover, Kim also has cats and parrots. A government source said, "If it saved the $100 million spent each year to buy luxury goods, North Korea could buy 200,000 tons of rice," or one fifth of its annual shortfall of a million tons. Kim Jong-il is said to have a slush fund totaling $4 billion squirreled away in offshore accounts.