The National Intelligence Service said on Monday that North Korea is spending around US$330 million on amusement parks and the cult surrounding the ruling Kim family.
The NIS told a National Assembly hearing that the North Korean regime is building huge outdoor swimming pools and water parks modeled after theme parks in Europe like Switzerland's Alpamare.
The agency said the plaza in front of Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, where the pickled bodies of nation founder Kim Il-sung and his son Kim Jong-il lie in glass coffins, is being transformed into a luxurious garden modeled after those of French and Austrian palaces.
The $330 million would be enough to buy 1.1 million tons of corn, which can feed the entire people of North Korea for three to four months, the NIS pointed out. The North is reported to be experiencing a worse food shortage than in the famine of the 1990s.
There are other signs that the new regime under Kim Jong-un is reverting to type. The agency said Kim's wife Ri Sol-ju has not appeared in public for 40 days, apparently because senior apparatchiks are worried that her westernized ways could corrupt public morals.
For a time the regime was happy to use Ri to project a friendly, approachable image of the new leader, but it seems hardliners are now trying to erase her past as a singer and entertainer by confiscating popular bootleg CDs of her performances.
Kim himself has recently focused his appearances on frontline military bases along the inter-Korean border and ordered troops to await "final attack orders."
The gist of the hearing was passed on to the press by Yoon Sang-hyun, a Saenuri Party lawmaker and member of the Intelligence Committee.