Kim Jong-il Goes Sailing as N.Korea Drowns

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has been on vacation sailing a luxury yacht on the east coast since early this month, a source familiar with the North said Thursday.

Kim "has been enjoying water sports like yachting" while staying at a villa in Hamhung, South Hamgyong Province, the source said. People in Hwanghae and Gangwon provinces, meanwhile, are suffering the aftermath of disastrous floods.

The floods have left an estimated 23,800 North Koreans displaced and 1,320 sq. km of farmland, twice the size of Seoul, submerged or washed away, according to the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency on Aug. 9. Based on these figures, the North has held out its hand for aid from the international community.

But Kim has not been seen in public doing anything about flood recovery. Of 15 public activities in July, half were dedicated to his personal pleasure -- five attendances of performances, two banquets, and a visit to a zoo. The rest were routine so-called on-the-spot guidance tours -- four to model factories and farms and two to military units.

In August, he was only seen in public once, visiting the February 8 Vinalon Complex -- a factory making low-grade synthetic fiber -- which is near the holiday villa, according to an Aug. 8 report.

Kim spends more time at his various villas around the country than in Pyongyang. Kenji Fujimoto, Kim's personal sushi chef for 13 years, said he spends about 300 days a year in his villas.

They are usually in a compound of about a dozen buildings. The first is reserved for Kim; the second for the Kim Kyong-hee, his younger sister, and her husband Jang Song-taek; the third for party department chiefs; the fourth for his personal secretaries; the seventh for a medical staff; and the tenth for staff. They also have movie theaters, horse tracks, basketball courts and swimming pools.

englishnews@chosun.com / Aug. 19, 2011 10:49 KST