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

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The Great Leader, as Kim Il-sung was routinely called, placed special agents in Europe just to buy the fancy items he wanted. An agent in Romania, for instance, bought a small Cessna plane for him, as well as hunting rifles. Kim himself sometimes spent months at a time looking for all the goods, big and small, on the shopping list.

To go public with such juicy tidbits is enough to invite the death penalty – even for those who manage to flee the country. Activists agree such fear is not the stuff of paranoia. “It’s very dangerous to write about North Korea,” says Peter Chung, who runs an organization in Seoul called Justice for North Korea, which is dedicated to helping defectors.

“In the Dictator’s Service,” written in German by Austrian journalists Ingrid Steiner-Gashi and Dardan Gashi, reveals the dietary cravings and demands, the parties and the lovely surroundings, in which Kim Il-sung existed for much of the 49 years that he ruled North Korea. He died in 1994 after ensuring that his son, Kim Jong-il, would succeed him.

A crime to have known anything

It may be even more dangerous to write about the man who's known in the North as the Dear Leader.

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