December 27, 2017 11:30
Ex-North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's former chef Kenji Fujimoto, who runs a Japanese restaurant in Pyongyang, has complained that he can only get North Korean fish as sanctions bite. He made the remarks to Fuji TV on Monday.
Fujimoto has had a lucrative sideline as an "expert" on North Korea on Japanese TV.
He was Kim's household chef from the late 1980s to 2001, when he returned to Japan, but went back to live in North Korea in August last year and opened a restaurant called Takahashi in the posh Nakwon department store that caters to the party elite.
He said he set up a Japanese sign in front of the restaurant to "broaden the understanding" North Koreans have of Japan.
One source who has eaten at Takahashi told a Japanese weekly that the food "tastes pretty good, but the prices are quite high." It serves four full-course menus that cost between US$50 and $150.
Japanese broadcaster NHK reported in February that Fujimoto met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last year and told him about his desire to open a Japanese restaurant in Pyongyang.
Born in Japan's Akita Prefecture, Fujimoto refuses to reveal his real name. His North Korean name is Pak Chol. He first went to North Korea in 1987 and worked as a chef at the Koryo Hotel in Pyongyang, where he was discovered by Kim Jong-il.
He married a famous North Korean singer and joined the Workers Party but fled in April of 2001 on the pretext of buying ingredients in Japan. Japanese media reported that he had grown tired of being constantly monitored by state security.
His wife and daughter remained behind in Pyongyang while Fujimoto wrote an autobiography, prophesying as early as 2003 that Kim Jong-un would be the next North Korean leader even as the world believed his elder half-brother Kim Jong-nam would be the successor to the throne.
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