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Inside Kim Jong Un’s armored train: "A sweet home"

Images on Russia and North Korean state media outlets showed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un traveling to Russia for a highly anticipated meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin by armored train — a method of travel that has been used by the reclusive Kim dynasty for decades.

Still photos released by Korean Central News Agency — the North Korean state media outlet — capture the 39-year-old dictator standing aboard a dark green train at a train station in North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, before his armored train left for Russia. The leader was also pictured waving to crowds carrying flowers and saluting a military guard before departing.

Footage released on Tuesday by Russia news agencies showed the slow-moving train in transit and crossing the border into Russia. Russian state television also released footage of the North Korean leader disembarking from his train in Russia and being welcomed by local Russian officials.

Since taking power in 2011, Kim Jong Un has made 10 foreign trips in total to five countries and has traveled by train on several of those occasions, Reuters reported, including to Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, for a summit with then U.S. President Donald Trump in 2019.

In April 2019, Kim also traveled by train to the Russian port city of Vladivostok to meet Putin for the first time — the last encounter between the two men until now.

“If he rides a train, he can command the entire country from anywhere, receive all faxes and emails, and access all reports because all communication facilities are available. So, for Kim Jong Un, it can feel as comfortable as his home,” former North Korean official Ko Young Hwan told Reuters news agency on Tuesday.

Ahn Byung-min, a South Korean expert on North Korea transportation, told Reuters that the armored trains that have carried the North’s leaders over the years have about 10 to 15 carriages each, some of which are exclusively reserved for Kim Jong Un, such as a private bedroom, while other carriages carry key members of the leader’s entourage like security guards.

The luxurious train reportedly only moves at up to 25 miles per hour due to the dilapidated rail infrastructure in the communist state. Previous footage captured of Kim Jong Un displayed pink couches and a carriage equipped with an office with a desk and chair, and a map of China and the Korean peninsula on the wall behind it.

The green train with yellow striping that Kim Jong Un was pictured boarding to Russia is the same design as the train that the dictator’s late father Kim Jong Il appeared to use to visit Russia in 2001, according to Reuters.

Russian military commander Konstantin Pulikovsky, who spent time aboard the train alongside Kim Jong Il during the visit to Russia in 2001, recalled it “being possible to order any dish of Russian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and French cuisine.”

In his memoir, Pulikovsky said that live lobsters were transported to the train to ensure the availability of fresh seafood, while cases of red wine from Bordeaux and Burgundy were imported in from Paris, according to CBS News partners at the BBC.

Even Vladimir Putin’s private train “did not have the comfort of Kim Jong Il’s train,” he said.

Kim Jong Il’s train was also described as having “conference rooms, an audience chamber and bedrooms. Satellite phone connections and flat screen TVs have been installed so that the North Korean leader can be briefed and issue orders,” according to a report by the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo in 2009.

Kim Jong Un’s father travelled by train for each of the three occasions that he visited Russia, Reuters reported.

The train was described by North Korean state media as “a sweet home and an office” for Kim Jong Il. He died while on board the train of a reported heart attack in late 2011.

One of the train’s carriages is on permanent display in the mausoleum on the outskirts of Pyongyang where Kim Jong Il’s body lies in state.

North Korea’s original “Dear Leader,” Kim Il Sung — the current leader’s grandfather — took international trips by train regularly during his rule during his tenure until he died in 1994, Reuters reported. He reportedly completed a marathon trip to Eastern Europe via Moscow by train in 1984.

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