Kim Jong Un Has an Unusual Preferred Way to Travel

North Korean leader's green and yellow train is well protected, but slow as a result
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 12, 2023 8:53 AM CDT
Kim Jong Un's 'Unusual' Vehicle: a Bulletproof Train
A green train with yellow trimmings, resembling one used by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on his previous travels, is seen on the North Korea border with Russia and China on Monday, Sept. 11, 2023.   (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

As Kim Jung Un arrived in Russia on Tuesday for his first known trip outside North Korea in more than four years, all eyes were on Vladivostok's train station, rather than its airport. Kim arrived in Vladivostok on a "bulletproof" train that is both heavy and slow, with an estimated top speed of 37mph, the New York Times reports. The Washington Post gives a top speed of 55mph but notes the journey from Pyongyang to Vladivostok would still take 20 hours, making the train "an unusual mode of transport for a 21st-century world leader." Yet it's keeping with tradition for the North Korean leader, whose father and grandfather also favored the train due to security concerns, the Times reports. Kim's father, Kim Jong Il, reportedly feared "being shot out of the sky," per the Post.

Though Kim flew on jets to meet with former US President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2018, he more often travels by train, avoiding the problem of flight-tracking radar. He traveled some 2,800 miles by train over two and a half days to reach Vietnam for his second meeting with Trump in 2019, per NPR. He also traveled by train to Russia for his last visit with President Vladimir Putin in 2019, per the Times. And not just any train. The one used by the North Korean leader is easily recognizable due to its dark green paint and yellow trim. Citing a 2009 South Korea news report, the Times reports there are actually three trains that set out on a journey: an advance security train, the train carrying the leader, and another carrying more bodyguards and supplies.

A Russian official who traveled on the train with Kim Jong Il described a lavish affair with young female singers and cases of French wine. One could "order any dish of Russian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and French cuisine," Konstantin Pulikovsky added in his book Orient Express. More recently, "footage from inside shows glossy white interiors, with long tables for briefings and flat-screen monitors," the Post reports. There are also pink sofas, per NPR. There are reportedly up to 90 carriages, including some used to carry armored vehicles. But there are also complications. As the Post notes, "Russia's rail network uses a different size gauge than the one used on the Korean Peninsula, necessitating a considerable wait at the border." (More Kim Jong Un stories.)

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