How Switzerland Inspires Kim Jong-un

      January 06, 2016 09:39

      Reports that North Korea will send Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong to the World Economic Forum scheduled in Davos, Switzerland puts a slanting light on leader Kim Jong-un's nostalgia for the wealthy, mountainous republic.

      Born in 1984, Kim went to school in Switzerland from the early 1990s until 2000, spending his childhood and adolescence there. According to former classmates and teachers, he enjoyed skiing, movies and basketball.

      In 2012 he spent US$300 million building a ski resort in Masikryong near Wonsan, Kangwon Province, modeled after a Swiss resort. He tried to buy Swiss snow blowers and ski lifts but was thwarted by international sanctions.

      The following year he reportedly turned a vast area of land in Sepo, Kangwon Province, into pasture and an alpine farm.

      But most conspicuous is his love of Swiss-made luxury goods. Both he and his wife Ri Sol-ju wear Movado watches. In 2012, he spent about 150,000 euros buying luxury baby care products from Medela, a Swiss company.

      He also seems to have tried to persuade dairy producers to make Emmental-style cheese, but experiments failed and he now has to import the genuine article.

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