Kim Jong Il’s Former Sushi Chef, Who Defected to Japan, Recently Went Back to North Korea for a Visit

The sushi chef who defected to Japan after serving Kim Jong Il for more than a decade, returned to North Korea for a visit
Kim Jong Il’s Former Sushi Chef, Who Defected to Japan, Recently Went Back to North Korea for a Visit

Photo: Flickr/(stephan)/CC BY SA 2.0

In 2001, Fujimoto left North Korea for Japan under the guise that he was acquiring a sushi delicacy for the supreme leader.

The personal sushi chef to Kim Jong Il, the late supreme leader of North Korea, recently paid a visit to Kim’s son, Kim Jong Un, during a visit to Pyongyang.

The Japanese chef, known by the alias Kenji Fujimoto, worked for Kim Jong Il from 1988 until 2001 — when he defected to Japan from China by convincing the leader that he needed to acquire sea urchin from Hokkaido for a special sushi preparation.

Despite his planned escape from the dictator-run republic, however, Fujimoto appears to be on good terms with the ruling family, and has returned to North Korea on at least two occasions.

During last month’s trip, Fujimoto admitted to having met with Kim Jong Un to celebrate the birthday of Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea, and the reigning supreme leader’s grandfather.

In the nation’s capital of Pyongyang, a reportedly gout-ridden Kim Jong Un recently hosted a MasterChef-style cooking competition featuring more than 1,000 prospective chefs, tasked with creating North Korean dishes as well as Western-style foods like pizza and spaghetti.

Meanwhile, the North Korean people are believed to be on the brink of a major famine, with each citizen required to donate rice and other resources to the state and military.

Rodong Sinmun, the state-run newspaper, informed citizens of hard times ahead with the warning, “We may have to go on an arduous march, during which we will have to chew the roots of plants once again.” 

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