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Kim Jong Il: Party Guy

I'm Barry Petersen, and this Letter from Asia comes from Bejing. It's easy to see what North Korea's Kim Jong Il is up to on the world stage. He seems to delight in things like setting off nuclear weapons or making nasty comments about America. But what about behind the scenes? Those who know him sum him up in one phrase: party guy.

Maybe he doesn't look it; Let's face it, the guy spends a lot of time being ominous and making the world nervous... Maybe missile firing? And he has his finger on the nuclear button since the North tested a nuclear device in October.

To find out a bit more, we sought out Kenji Fujimoto, a Japanese man who found favor with Kim as a sushi chef in the 1980s. Fujimoto wrote three books: "Kim's Chef", "Kim's Private Life", and our personal favorite, "The Honorable General Who Loved Nuclear Weapons and Girls". "He liked disco music," says Fujimoto, adding "Kim didn't like to dance, but he made everyone else dance."

Fujimoto probably inspired the U.S. and Japan's recent list of sanctions against North Korea, cutting off things like Kim's caviar, luxury cars and booze. According to Fujimoto, "When (kim) has a party, he wants people drunk because he does not like gloomy parties." Those around Kim like the parties because that's when they get presents - presents he uses to keep their loyalty. "The most expensive present," Fujimoto says, "is a Mercedes Benz, or an expensive leather sofa, or a big screen TV."

You would think that a leader who heads a million-man army would be busy with affairs of state. Well, maybe he is a bit more these days than in his youth, because youth has slipped away. Now in his mid sixties, he may be suffering from high blood pressure and diabetes. And his dad - know as the Great Leader - once ran the country and died at 82 of a heart attack.

"He doesn't drink much whisky anymore," says Fujimoto. "Now it's mostly wine and he likes sweets and tries not to eat too much chocolate." There you have it; A wine sipping, chocolate calorie-counting Dear Leader. Alright, it's fun to laugh at Kim, as long as you remember that he keeps his power with his nuclear weapons program and constant threats of war. Disco guy, party guy... Well, maybe. Scary guy on the world state - of that, there is no doubt.