North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

What is Kim Jong-il's obsession with swimming?

Kim Jong-il ended this work week an inspection tour of the swimming complex at Kim Il-sung University.  This marked the third time General-Secretary Kim has visited the KISU pool facilities which were completed (“newly built” in the North Korean press) this year.  In photo sessions with KPA construction units in September and October, he also cited the KISU swimming complex as a significant accomplishment of the construction units’ efforts in 2009.  Initially I assumed that the swimming complex is a fall-back guidance/inspection location in the event that factory officials have not had time to juke their statistics and make those iridescent audio-visual displays.  Perhaps, General-Secretary Kim was due to visit another part of Pyongyang or South Pyongan and a currency protest was already in progress.  (The Guard Command would respond none too kindly to the Supreme Commander being treated like Adlai Stevenson visiting Dallas).

KWP Secretary Choe Thae-bok, KISU KWP Secretary Kim Thae-hi, unknown KISU official, Kim Jong-il (seated and grinning), KISU President Song Ja-rip, Jang Song-thaek (facing the camera) and OGD Senior Deputy Diretor Ri Je-gang at the KISU Swimming Complex (Photo: KCNA).

Perhaps, the DPRK is looking into fielding a synchronized swim team for the 2012 Olympics.  During his inspection, Kim Jong-il remarked, “Swimming is very good exercise for training physical bodies and promoting health.”  And I realized General-Secretary Kim may be referring to his own health, and that he may be swimming at whatever villa he is staying.  There are accounts of swimming pools in his subterranean bunkers. As General-Secretary Kim sports the fur hat in the winter months, does he in fact don a rubber bathing cap for his aquarobics?


This article was written on 12 Dec 2009, and is filled under Guidance Tours, Kim Family, Kim Jong-il, On the Spot Guidance.

An affiliate of 38 North