Page last updated at 04:17 GMT, Monday, 8 March 2010

Colonel tells of lavish shopping for N Korea dictators

By Bethany Bell
BBC News, Vienna

Kim Jong-il, pictured in October 2007
Kim Jong-il is known for his love of drinking and fine dining

A former North Korean colonel, Kim Jong-ryul, has described how he spent two decades shopping in Europe for the dictatorship in Pyongyang.

His story is the subject of a new book published in Austria, where the colonel says he has lived under cover since his defection in 1994.

Colonel Kim Jong-ryul says he spent 20 years doing business in Europe for the North Korean regime.

His story is told in a new book, At the Dictator's Service.

In the book, he says Vienna was one of his regular destinations - the hub for his shopping sprees.

He says he bought everything from spy technology and weapons to luxury goods like carpets, sidestepping the trade embargoes.

N Korea's "Dear Leader" is a reclusive character, at the centre of an elaborate personality cult
Succeeded his father Kim Il-sung, founder of North Korea, who died in 1994
Mr Kim is seen in the West as both a master manipulator, and delusional madman
He has a reputation as a drinker, a playboy and a hypochondriac

The book describes the deep divide between the lavish lifestyles of North Korea's leaders - and the poverty of its people.

Colonel Kim says it was this injustice that led him to fake his own death in 1994 and defect to Austria.

Now he says he is risking his life by going public.

He fears that the North Korean secret services will hunt him down and hurt his family back in North Korea.

But he says he has no regrets about breaking his silence.

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