Japanese chef meets North Korea's Kim and wife: reports

Sat Aug 4, 2012 5:29am EDT
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TOKYO (Reuters) - A Japanese chef for the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il visited Pyongyang for the first time in 11 years and met the new young leader and his wife Ri Sol-ju, whom he described as "pretty and charming", Japanese media said on Saturday.

Kenji Fujimoto, a pseudonym, who worked as the late leader's personal chef in the late 1980s and 1990s, told reporters in Beijing on his way back from the secretive North that the leader Kim Jong-un was happy to meet him during his two-week visit, Kyodo and Jiji news agencies said.

Fujimoto, who published in 2003 a memoir of his time as the Dear Leader's chef, said the young Kim "very much enjoyed" eating tuna that he had flown in for him, Kyodo said.

The Japanese chef, whose book offered a rare insight into the goings-on behind the scenes in the ruling household, now always wears dark sunglasses, a variety of headgear and has moved homes frequently, indicating that he feels his life is threatened.

Fujimoto got to know the young Kim when he served as the chef for his late father for 13 years from 1988, at a time when more than 1 million North Koreans perished in a famine.

In his memoir, Fujimoto singled out the young Kim as being his father's favorite son. He called the youngest of Kim's sons the "Prince", and wrote that he most resembled his father.

Asked whether they discussed issues related to North Korea's relations with Japan, such as ways to address Pyongyang's past abductions of Japanese nationals, Fujimoto only said, "I did not visit (North Korea) for government work."

Among a number of issues straining Japan-North Korean relations is the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents decades ago.

(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)