Everything you want to know about Kim Jong-un’s automobile collections: Lincoln to Rolls-Royce
Do Sanctions really work against the evil regime’s luxury?
Kim, Dong Yon / North Korea Analyst
The World have eye-witnessed historic moments of two Korean leaders met each other multiple times in the past months. The first two Inter-Korean meetings were held in Panmunjom, and the third in Pyongyang. Another historic engagement between Trump and Kim has also happened in Singapore.
However, not many in the world have noticed Kim’s new rides during these meetings. Kim has shown the world his secret rides. Yes, almost all of them were Germany’s high-end luxury vehicle, Mercedes-Benz and Maybach. Nearly every single meetings, he bragged his new ride which he did not show before. This made people think how many more new vehicles Kim owns and will he bring new vehicles for the next meeting?
Kim Jong-un’s collection of Mercedes Benz has a long history even goes back to his grandfather, Kim Il Sung era, and especially, his father, Kim Jong-il was known as the Benz Maniac. Therefore when Former S.Korean President Roh Moo-hyun visited Pyongyang with the automobile, he switched his VIP vehicle from BMW to Benz. During Roh’s tenure, S.Korean Presidential Office, the Blue House bought the BMW 760 Li Security as the President’s vehicle that Roh often used BMW. Though, he chauffeured by Benz S-Class for his visit to Pyongyang because he knew Kim Jong-il’s taste of car.
Kim Jong-nam’s Assassination and N.Korean Embassy Vehicles in the World
Many of Former N.Korea high official defectors to S.Korea said, Kim Jong-il sometimes awarded his cabinets with the Benz as a present. Nearly all N.Korean embassies to foreign nations also own at least one or multiple Benz from C-Class to S-Class.
One of the recent N.Korean defectors who was the Former Consul of N.Korean Embassy to the UK, Tae Yong Ho said, his salary per month was around $1000 USD which is considerably small for diplomats in overseas therefore he had to visit cheap grocery stores to make living. According to Kim Ju min, the head of NGO for helping N.Korean in overseas said, “some N.Korean diplomats buy old dolls and wash them for resale to make extra cash for their living.”
Despite Tae’s low salary, the N.Korea’s UK Embassy has at least two Mercedes Benz: Black S-Class (W220), and Black E-Class(W211). These old luxury vehicles consume high gas and low miles compare to modern hybrids and economic compact cars. Gas money could have been the burden for Tae. According to UK media, Telegraph, these vehicles violated parking law in UK that has fined multiple tickets which accumulated worth of about 200,000 pounds (GBP). It is equivalent of $260,000 dollars (USD). N.Korean Embassy has not yet paid the ticket debt.
When Kim Jong-nam, a half-brother of Kim Jong-un assassinated at Malaysian International Airport, N.Korean Embassy to Malaysia exhibited multiple embassy vehicles. N.Korean Embassy to Malaysia is one of the biggest N.Korea regional offices that it is assumed to have more than 50 active members. After Kim Jong-nam’s death, N.Korea Embassy members showed at multiple occasions because of its allegation of Kim Jong-nam’ death. They used at least 5 Embassy vehicles to visit hospital and airport. Their vehicles were spotted by the international media. The N.Korea Ambassador to Malaysia is Kang Chol and his vehicle is a British made 3rd generation Jaguar XJ (X350). This vehicle had a plate number, 28-01-DC.
The Number 28 is the country code for N.Korea in Malaysia, 01 is assigned to the highest rank of the Embassy meaning the Ambassador. The last two alphabet DC stands for Diplomatic Corps meaning the vehicle is Embassy vehicle in Malaysia. What is more interesting is that Ambassador not only owned the Jaguar but also Japanese luxurious vehicle, Lexus LS 460 (4th Gen, XF40). Lexus also had the same number plate as the Jaguar, it is rare for the Ambassador to own 2 luxury vehicles for the country like N.Korea which hints the size and power of N.Korea Embassy to Malaysia.
N.Korea members besides Ambassadors were using other European vehicles: Audi A6 (4th Gen, C7) with 28-35-DC number plate and N.Korea’s favorite, Mercedes-Benz E-Class (3rd Gen, W211). N.Korea Embassy also owns at least two more vehicles: BMW 5 Series, MPV, and SUV in Malaysia. Up until 2017, we the world agreed at the UN for stronger sanctions against N.Korea but many of Malaysian Embassy vehicles showed that N.Korea was able to purchase considerably brand new models: Lexus LS 460, and Audi A6. These vehicles were market available from 2012 to 2017. It is questionable about the effectiveness of sanctions and needs some stronger supplementations to catch and stop N.Korea’s money flow.
In general, a country like N.Korea only dispatch what is necessary to run the business in a foreign country meaning they only assign the minimum numbers to a foreign country. Plus, there are only a few N.Korea Citizens who can travel abroad freely that they do not need to run the big embassy for the VISA or Passport business. The minimum number of Embassy business can be handled by less than 5 diplomats for a country like N.Korea but Malaysian Embassy known to have about 50 members. If we apply the simple logic to the Malaysian Embassy, who and what was the rest of about 40 members’ task at Malaysia. It is not surprising why Kim Jong-nam assassinated in Malaysia.
Despite the strong Anti-Americanism in N.Korea, Kim’s family loved American Luxury vehicles
Kim Il Sung, the first dictator of N.Korea known to own American made Cadillacs and German made Benz. Therefore his sons, Kim Jong-il, Kim Pyong-il also owned the same types of vehicles.
Kim Pyong-il is the brother of Kim Jong-il and the uncle of Kim Jong-un. He is once known as the potential leader of N.Korea before Kim Jong-un’s rise to the power. He has been the N.Korea Ambassador to Czech. He has spotted with old Mercedes Benz S-Class (W140) before. This particular model is 3rd generation S-Class which has produced between 1991-1999. He uses this vehicle as his Embassy vehicle that it has a diplomatic number plate.
April 2017, I was able to spot the Kim Pyong-il’s personal vehicle in Czech which has been not known to the public. One classic vehicle is parked next to the N.Korea Embassy. This was a Cadillac. It was Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham which produced between 1977 to 1986. Such old Cadillac is very rare in Czech, especially the country where known as the Soviet Bloc, most of the vehicles in the same era are Russian made vehicles. Therefore 70’s old American luxurious vehicle found in Czech is not usual and it is the sign of Kim’s heritage.
When Kim Jong-il died in late 2011, his dead body carried with the American made, Lincoln Continental Hearse which produced in 1976. The Lincoln was companioned by his son, Kim Jong-un and other cabinet members who are known to close to the leadership. This is another proof where N.Korea have purchased many 70s~80s American luxurious vehicles.
The irony of owning many American vehicles among Kim family is a mere contradiction to their core ideology. They sustain their legacy by fight and kill the US made ideology which they call it in Korean, Mee-Jae (미제). Therefore multiple propaganda signs and manuals contained the Anti-Americanism. In N.Korea, they often allure sly fox image to the US that they call the US as a cunning cat (미제승냥이). Also, they often say we N.Korea makes the best automobiles in the world. Surprisingly, N.Korea do produce their own automobiles like Whee-Param(휘파람) meaning “Whistle” in English, but all of the technologies are borrowed through a license from S.Korea and former Soviet countries. Despite their automobile greatness, the high class of N.Korean society including Kim Jong-un never uses N.Korea made vehicles. Also, many high-class people in Pyongyang owns European or Japanese vehicles. It is not hard to find Japanese vehicles in Pyongyang. Many are second-hand old cars sent from Japan with help of their front group, a Pro-N.Korea Federation, Jo Chong-ryun (조총련) in Japan.
1st Inter-Korea Summit: Kim’s new Benz and Kim’s racing spirit
When Kim and Moon met at the Panmunjom last April 27th, the world only pays attention to two leaders’ hugging and shaking that media have missed his new vehicle which escorted Kim’s bulletproof S600 Benz Pullman Guard. It was 2014 Mercedes-Benz G wagon. This particular model is not G63 AMG model but G500. It has a slight design updated version which equipped with the daylight LEDs in the front. This vehicle has a V8 engine which capable of 0-60mph within 6 seconds. AMG version can do it under 6 seconds. Again, N.Korea have purchased such luxury vehicle when the UN applied its strong sanctions to N.Korea. N.Korea never showed this G-wagon prior to 1st Inter-Korean Summit.
According to N.Korea sources in 2010 have reported that about $ 3,100,000 USD worth of vehicles has delivered to N.Korea via China. In the list of vehicles, there were two noticeable vehicles: Mercedes Benz S600 Pullman Guard, and Audi R8. The actual purchase and delivery happened in 2010 that Kim Jong-il presumably ordered these vehicles but he died shortly after that Kim Jong-il was not able to enjoy them. Kim Jong-un’s S600 Pullman Guard at Panmunjom, 1st Inter-Korean Summit is this vehicle from 2010.
There is only one who can ride Audi R8 in N.Korea, Kim Jong-un. Unlike his father, Kim Jong-un raised his youth in Swiss where known to have a snowy winter season. In such a condition, it is better to have All Wheel Drive vehicles than two-wheel drive. For young Kim’s eye, Audi could have been his dream car since his Swiss years that he wanted to buy Audi R8. It is presumably Kim Jong-un’s R8 is updated version which equipped with the V10 engine instead of V8. Audi upgraded its engine in 2010.
It is questionable, how Kim Jong-un drives but the world has no idea about his driving skill. It is quite hard to drive a supercar that even physically sensitive soccer players crash their supercars sometimes. In N.Korea, the evil regime teaches its people, “Kim Jong-un was able to drive a car over 120km/h(80mph) in downhill at age of 3 and able to race a speedy boat 200km/h (125mph) against the boat engineers at his age of 9.” N.Korea even specified the brand of a boat which he raced. They said the boat maker, “Mountain.”
So I searched the boat maker, “Mountain” and there is one company in the US used the name close to Mountain was a “Smoky Mountain.” I have contacted boat maker, Smoky Mountain in 2015 and asked about these claims and one of the company representatives, Nick Williams, replied via email, “we have all the record of our sales for 20 years. Once we have sold one boat to S.Korea 10 years ago but we doubt about that boat went to N.Korea. Also, a boat we sold to S.Korea had a maximum speed of 40mph. It is ridiculous and crazy how N.Korea lie to its people with the nonsense.”
According to N.Korea sources, Kim Jong-un once drove his Benz by himself at evening in Pyongyang and complained to his cabinet members, “There are so many 83 drivers(83운전수).” 83 drivers in N.Korea means stupid drivers or unskilled drivers. Shortly after he complained, N.Korea cabinet issued the high order to police to catch all the unskillful drivers and punished them. Based on this claim, Kim can drive vehicles by himself but it is still not known how good he can drive.
Singapore Summit: Kim’s another New Benz
When Trump and Kim met in Singapore, I suspected and analyzed Kim’s VIP airplane’s full engine thrust around 70% based on its model year and the maintenance conditions of N.Korea. Russian made IL-62M is his VIP airplane, this aircraft appears to be bought in 1985 based on comparative analysis of other IL-62Ms bought by the N.Korea’s only airliner, Koryo Air. Koryo Air bought 2 of the same type of Aircraft in 1979 and 1986. Based on this, Kim’s aircraft is at least 33 years old. It is highly possible that Kim’s aircraft have borrowed multiple parts from those 2 aircraft owned by the Koryo Air for its maintenance and kept its condition as good as possible. Later, Kim visited Singapore with the 747 Boeing (CA121) which borrowed from China’s Chinese Air.
Reference of Kim Jong-un’s Aircraft, IL-62M (Korean)
The S.korean public at that time, many criticized and harassed Kim’s visit to Singapore because of their poor economic condition where they cannot even have money to buy a new aircraft and uses more than 30 years old airplane. Obviously, N.Korea do aware of such criticism due to the geographical closeness between the two Koreas and N.Korea always pay attention to S.Korea public opinions.
This may have been the cause of his new ride to Singapore. Kim may want to recover his broken image by showing a new luxury vehicle to the world. Also, he didn’t want to lose his nerve by his counterpart, Trump’s almighty Beast-One (Cadillac-One). At Singapore, he showed the world, another new vehicle which he never showed before. For those who do not know much about cars could just see it as another Benz S-Class but he brought Maybach 62 along with his S600 Pullman Guard to Singapore. When he penetrated the city of Singapore with his convoys there were two black limousines one is the known S600 Pullman Guard and right behind of it, Maybach 62 followed.
This particular vehicle has been known as Mercedes Benz’s Answer to British Luxury, Rolls-Royce. Benz launched a separate luxury brand, Maybach in 2002 and introduced two special models, one is Maybach 62(V240), and the other is Maybach 57(W240). These two are equipped with handmade luxuries and equipped with very unique systems: panoramic glass roof. This special roof can be see-through and block the sunlight by electronic control. Also, roof shows the rear passenger about the vehicle speed, temperature, and other information make you feel like cruising inside of airplane high-class cabin. The price of base 62S is about $500,000 USD. Kim’s model appears to be 2011 Maybach 62S. If he specially ordered this vehicle with other optional luxuries and armors, the price could go up to $700,000~900,000 USD.
Right after the Summit, Trump introduced his VIP vehicle, Cadillac-One to Kim and even asked him to get inside of the vehicle but Kim refused Trump’s generous offer. Kim has been guided by his Security cabinets not to leave any vestige. If Kim has seated in the Cadillac-One, it could have been a great opportunity for the US Intelligence Agency to trace his biological status which he could leave fingerprints or hair in the car.
According to S.Korea Intelligence Agency, NIS, N.Korea Kim’s family wherever they visit, they do not use restrooms inside of hotel nor public bathroom. They even bring their own restroom system from N.Korea and leave no marks afterward in order to hide their physical condition. Former N.Korea diplomat to S.Korea, Ko once said, all N.Korea high diplomats traveled abroad carry special spray which they can spray on their feces then make them to an odorless solid substance so they can carry back to N.Korea.
3rd Inter-Korea Summit: the identity of N.Korea’s motorcycle convoy
When Moon Jae-in visited Pyongyang for the 3rd Inter-Korea, his vehicle was escorted by the group of white police motorcycles. What is interesting is that the riders are appeared to be soldiers with formal uniforms but their motorcycles were not military purpose built but police purpose built. These motorcycles were unique for outsiders because there is not so much information about N.Korea’s motorcycles. There has been nearly no information about their police motorcades.
However, I was able to analyze and find the name and the specification of these motorcycles. From its design, if someone says these are European models like S.Korean Police’s BMW R1200RT, some could believe such claims because of their fancy exterior design. There is a reason why they looked like European models because these bikes are based on the Austrian motorcycle maker KTM. KTM is one of the well known off-road motorcycle makers in Europe. KTM is popular in Europe and North America but not so much power in terms of its brand recognition in Asia. When KTM launched its brand in China they combined their brand with Chinese company known as CF Moto.
Such combination is common in Communism countries: Russia, China, and N.Korea. Foreign business must combine with the local ones to do their business in the local market. KTM was no exception that they have been selling their models in China as CF Moto. One of their police motorcycles is CF650TR. This motorcycle is widely sold to China government that China uses this model as their police convoys. Based on this, N.Korea received their police motorcycles from China and they used them for 3rd Inter-Korean Summit in Pyongyang. In terms of Sanction and its effectiveness is again questionable and with help from China, N.Korea can get what they need. About a year ago, China also agreed to support the sanction against N.Korea but in reality, it is hard to validate their authenticity.
Pompeo’s 4th visit to Pyongyang: Kim’s new Rolls-Royce Phantom
When Pompeo visited Pyongyang, N.Korea provided Benz S-class to greet the American Secretary of State. Nowadays, N.Korea uses their old VIP vehicles, S-Class (W140) Pullman Guard for the foreign guests. When S.Korea special envoy to Pyongyang visited N.Korea, they used the same old S-Class to greet S.Korea officials. It is known that N.Korea owns two of these old S-Class. The Russian leader, Putin also used the same vehicle before. Putin’s bulletproof Benz S-Class was up for sale to the Russian Public with $1.3 million USD price tag in 2016.
What is more unique about N.Korea is that these vehicles arrived at the place where Kim Jong-un awaits these members; the automobiles parked inside of building rather outside. N.Korea had a high ceiling vehicle reception area where the guests can set sb down. This means from the outsiders cannot spot the guest that goes inside of a building. It is the sign of N.Korean secrecy and hidden society.
When Pompeo visited Pyongyang for the fourth time last October 7th, Kim came to meet the Pompeo. This time he didn’t wait for Pompeo from the building but he later appeared at the scene by car. At this moment, he came with the Rolls-Royce Phantom which N.Korea never showed to the public before. Based on the photo, it appears to be a 2012~2014 Rolls-Royce Phantom Extended wheelbase with the possible bulletproof protection.
Some western media covered this story as the brand new phantom but it appears to be not right. There are several notifiable design cues that distinguish it from the new 2018 Rolls -Royce. The first cue is the thickness of the C pillar and the shape. The second cue is the Wheel arch shape. The older 2012~2014 model has thicker C pillar and squarely boxy shape compare to the new phantoms. Also, the wheel arch shape of Kim’s phantom has slight peaked wheel house fender design which we can find often from older vehicles. Whereas the new model has slicker brushed wheel arch shapes. Additionally, if you look at the size of rear seat window to regular phantom, Kim’s Phantom has a noticeable stretch of the rear window which indicates the extended wheelbase.
Another reason why Kim’s phantom is an older version than a new one is because of the bullet-proof capability. In the market of luxury VIP vehicles, when automakers launch their new models, most of them born without the armors. Therefore, aftermarket security companies study the new vehicles and renovate the designs to equip the bulletproof armors on vehicles. This process generally takes about 2~5 years. This creates the generation gap between the market of Luxury vehicles and the market of Armored luxury vehicles. Based on this, Kim’s Rolls-Royce is brand new in armored vehicle market standard but considerably 1 generation older model of luxury vehicles.
In the market of armored vehicles, VR10 equipped 2012-2014 Rolls-Royce Phantom is already available. The European armored standard upgraded in 2010 that Moon Jae-in’s newer Mercedes-Maybach S600 Guard equipped with VR10 ratings whereas Kim’s older Mercedes-Benz S600 Pullman Guard with VR9. Even name of vehicle changed that newer version combines the name Maybach with the high-end S-Class models.
Kim’s S600 Pullman guard has a highest armored rating of that time (prior to 2010) which has the VR9 level, but this Rolls-Royce based on its model year, it appears to have higher VR10 bulletproof ratings. This might be the reason why Kim came with the Rolls-Royce. Also, based on S.Korea Intelligence Agency, NIS, Kim is known to a Security-phobic that he often afraid of American surveillance. When Pompeo visited Pyongyang, he companioned with the CIA’s Korea Center Chief, Andrew Kim that Kim Jong-un may have been extra-careful about their visit to Pyongyang that even considered the worst case scenario like assassination attempt or surveillance over his vehicle from the US ISR assets. When Kim traveled with his new Rolls-Royce, from the spectators perspective, it is not easy to catch his movement due to its unknown newness of the vehicle.
Consequently, Kim seems to have a variety of luxury vehicles, despite the sanction to N.Korea. It is the time for the international community to think again about the method of these sanctions effectiveness and apply proper measures against N.Korea. We must acknowledge that N.Korea always been survived no matter how harsh sanctions applied to them, how bad the global economy was in the world. They have been through many global economic recessions and get away with the multinational sanctions. It is because of N.Korea’s friends who always helped them to sustain.
Reference of Articles which written by Dong Yon Kim (All written in Korean)