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New book: Defector tells of shopping in Europe for North Korea dictators

A new book tells of Col. Kim Jong-ryul, who went on shopping sprees for North Korea dictators Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il before hiding in Europe for 16 years. His tell-all could threaten his life, he says.

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New book: Army Col. Kim Jong-ryul gestures at a news conference in Vienna, on March 4, on the occasion of the presentation of the book 'Im Dienst des Diktators' ('In the Dictator’s Service') by Ingrid Steiner-Gashi and Dardan Gashi.

Hans Punz/AP

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Firsthand exposés about the personal lives of North Korea’s leaders can put the lives of their authors at risk, even if they are far away.The latest tell-all, published in Austria by two journalists to whom former Army Col. Kim Jong-ryul told his story, is a case in point.

By his own account, Mr. Kim – who describes the dozens of villas and beautiful furnishings included in the lavish lifestyles of Kim Il-sung and his son Kim Jong-il – says he realizes the danger.

“Maybe I’ll be shot, killed in the next few days,” Kim Jong-ryul, who escaped North Korea in 1994 and now lives at a secret address, told reporters in Vienna after the book came out. At least, "now I can die with a clear conscience," he said. But “without [publishing] this book, I didn’t want to die.”

The book adds to a growing body of evidence of the selfishness of the North's Kim Il-sung, who ignored the suffering of his people while focusing on his own comfort and safety. An engineer, Kim Jong-ryul said he was asked to design a special filtration system for the shelter in which Kim Il-sung and his family could hide in order to survive a nuclear attack.

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