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An armored limousine, a suitcase with a bottle of vodka and an excavator: what Russia gave North Korean leaders over the years

Date: June 22, 2024 Time: 10:01:22

Kim Il Sung’s visit to Moscow. 1961

Photo: TASS photo chronicle.

One of the most discussed details of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s visit to Russia is the train on which the North Korean leader traveled to the meeting site with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The media publishes new images of the train, competing with each other to retell legends about the luxury of the interior decoration of the carriages. By preferring the railway as a means of transportation, Kim Jong-un continues the traditions of his grandfather and his father, DPRK leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.


The founding father of the People’s Republic, Kim Il Sung, almost always traveled on an armored train that Stalin personally gave him. He traveled 368 thousand kilometers, of which 216 thousand were abroad. Most of the kilometers traveled were in the vast expanses of the Soviet Union. “The Sun of the Nation” visited the USSR more than 10 times and it was not just a matter of political association, Kim Il Sung sincerely loved that country to which he owed a lot. He even celebrated his wedding with his faithful companion Kim Jong Suk in the village of Vyatskoye (Khabarovsk Territory), where the North Korean partisan camp was located. Kim Jong Il’s son was also born there.

It is said that Kim Il Sung considered train travel a privilege reserved for the top leaders of communist countries. Furthermore, he sincerely believed that this was the best way to see the country. Along the way, Father Juche loved to stop in different cities (Sverdlovsk, Novosibirsk, Chita, Leningrad, Minsk) and meticulously study the life, culture and labor achievements of the Soviet people, visit factories and local attractions. Each visit of the Great Leader to the corners of our “immense” was accompanied by magnificent encounters and surrounded by legends. The most extensive and colorful were the multi-day train tours of 1956 and 1984. “KP” has collected the most amazing details of these trips.

Visit of Kim Il Sung to the USSR. 1961

Photo: TASS photo chronicle.


According to legend, in 1956, during his visit to the USSR, Kim Il Sung was taken to the Tretyakov Gallery. There he was impressed by Konstantin Makovsky’s painting “Children Fleeing a Storm,” but immediately told Nikita Khrushchev, who was accompanying him, that Korean children would not flee a storm, but would bravely face the elements! The Secretary General in response promised to give the guest a copy of this table, taking into account the comments. A year later, the USSR ambassador in Pyongyang presented Kim Il Sung with a new canvas, recreated by the artist Viktor Deryuzhkin. The picture practically repeated the plot and style of the famous masterpiece, but corresponded to the new title “Korean children bravely face the capitalist storm.” The author also included the Great Leader’s favorite breed dog. The gift is now on display at the Pyongyang People’s Socialist Art Museum.

Meeting the first North Korean train at Khasan station during the grand opening of the railway “Friendship Bridge” over the Tumangan River on the border between the USSR and the DPRK

Photo: TASS photo chronicle.


Upon his return from Moscow in 1956, Kim Il Sung visited Sverdlovsk, where he enjoyed the operetta “White Acacia” at the Musical Comedy Theater and visited the Uralmash Plant. Something unexpected happened at the plant: in one of the workshops, a young man in a work uniform ran out to meet the guest and spoke in Korean. It turned out that the guy was a student who came to the Urals from the DPRK to study engineering. Having lost his native language, he decided to talk to the Veliki leader himself, who, by the way, supported the conversation and then continued to inspect the plant. He received a model of a traveling excavator as a gift from the workers and left a note in the guest book wishing him success in his work. According to some, the very young Kim Jong Il already accompanied him on this trip, while others claim that for the first time his father took his heir to the USSR three years later.

Kim Il Sung and General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee Konstantin Chernenko



Usually the leader of the DPRK in the regions of the USSR was received by the local party elite, but during the 1984 trip, on the Novosibirsk platform, there was, among others, a simple state agricultural worker Yakov Novichenko. For many years, no one in his hometown believed when the retired officer told how he saved Kim Il Sung’s own life. When the high-ranking guest arrived, Novichenko was remembered and included in the delegation. As the story goes, upon recognizing Jacob, the North Korean leader rushed to embrace the savior: in 1946, it was he who covered a grenade thrown at the founder of the DPRK in Pyongyang Square. According to legend, in gratitude, Kim Il Sung gave the hero a suitcase with a bottle of vodka as a symbol of a strong friendship. After the meeting at the station, Novichenko became truly friends with the leader, regularly visited the DPRK, received the title of Hero of Labor there, and all schoolchildren in the DPRK still know the name of the Russian savior.

May 1984. General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Labor Party of Korea, Kim Il Sung, on the stage in Nizhneudinsk on his way to Moscow.

Photo: TASS photo chronicle.


Also in 1984, Kim Il Sung visited Sverdlovsk again while passing through. The entire regional committee was supposed to meet with the high-ranking guest, but the Korean delegation asked that the meeting be limited to leaders only. Naturally, the head of the region, Boris Yeltsin, was among those chosen. Thus, at the station, the leader of the DPRK met a man who within a few years would lead a completely different country. Perhaps it was a premonition that worked, but Kim Il Sung was not very favorable to the future president of Russia, rejecting all the latter’s attempts to entertain the guest: neither the visit to the Uralmash plant nor the gala dinner attracted the Korean. However, Yeltsin did not give up and invited the leader of the DPRK to the Opera and Ballet Theater. He agreed on the condition of sitting in his own chair, brought from his favorite train. After the performance, Boris Nikolayevich hoped to continue the evening in the baths already prepared for the delegation, but Kim Il Sung went to bed and left the city the next morning. They say that at the subsequent party meeting, Yeltsin said in his heart: “God forbid such guests visit us again!”

On the trip, the Korean leader was accompanied by KGB General Mikhail Dokuchaev, who described the trip as follows: “Kim occupied five of the fourteen carriages: an office, a bedroom, an exercise car, a lounge for press conferences. Korean style dining room, only Korean dishes. We were wondering if they gave us dog meat or not. We decided yes, but it was well prepared. Kim drank alcohol in moderation. I loved watermelons.” As the general notes, there were always chroniclers next to the leader who wrote down every word. Usually, during meetings with local officials, the guest meticulously studied the state of the region, discussed the prospects for cooperation and immediately gave instructions to his subordinates.


Having led the DPRK after the death of Kim Il Sung, his son Kim Jong Il visited Russia three times. It is believed that he had 6 luxury trains and more than 90 modernized carriages. In 2001, the new leader of the North Koreans traveled in one of them to Moscow, visiting several cities along the way and the “Kim Il Sung House,” built in 1986 on the border between the DPRK and Russia. This visit was described in detail by former presidential envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District, Konstantin Pulikovsky, who accompanied Kim Jong Il throughout the month-long trip, in the book “Orient Express. Through Russia with Kim Jong Il.”

As Pulikovsky says, the DPRK leader inherited from his father the habit of thoroughly studying the regions he visited: “On the second day, in the Blagoveshchensk region, Kim Jong Il invited me to lunch. And from the first words he was literally stunned and lamented the decline in the standard of living of the people in the Primorsky Territory. From his questions it became clear: he knows practically everything about the situation in Primorye.” During the trip, Kim Jong Il asked many detailed questions: Why are heating pipes insulated in this way? Why are bricks used in construction instead of concrete blocks? Are non-ferrous metals stolen?

Having led the DPRK after the death of Kim Il Sung, his son Kim Jong Il visited Russia three times.


According to the ex-plenipotentiary, the guest would surely taste bread, pickles and lard in each city. He also often ordered dumplings and drank a glass of Russian vodka. The Mansudae group also traveled with the leader, performing Russian songs that Kim Jong Il knew since he was a child.

The current head of the DPRK, Kim Jong-un, has not yet gone beyond Vladivostok, but his visit in 2019 was memorable because, for the sake of the leader’s armored limousine, which he brought with him, the entrance from the station the city had to expand 20 cm.


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Puck Henry
Puck Henry
Puck Henry is an editor for ePrimefeed covering all types of news.

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