An open letter to Kim Jong-Il of North Korea

Dear Leader,

I’ve heard that’s how you like to be addressed by the people of North Korea, but since this is the beginning of a letter I guess I should say Dear Dear Leader.

My editor sent me this article claiming that while your people are starving you own six luxurious trains fitted with high-tech communications facilities, conference rooms, and even ballrooms. Since you’re reportedly afraid of flying, I can understand you needing a train with all the communication equipment you’d find in, say, Air Force One, but do you really need the ballrooms? Do you like to invite your nuclear scientists to an evening of waltzing?

Perhaps this story isn’t true. Not all stories about dictators are, after all. The rumor that Hitler only had one ball is highly debatable, for example, and while you did kidnap a South Korean director to start your own movie industry, that doesn’t mean that you have 19 train stations around the country for your exclusive use. This report was in a South Korean newspaper and cited U.S. and South Korean intelligence agencies. Not the most sympathetic observers, to be sure.

I’d like to get to the bottom of this, so here’s a modest proposal. How about you set up a railway tour of North Korea? If you don’t have any luxury trains, you can market it as “Adventure Travel” and bring in rugged backpackers accustomed to hard journeys on third-class trains. If you really do have some luxury trains, perhaps you could spare one of your six, ballroom included, and market it as “Luxury Travel”. You’ll attract a richer clientele and prove your generosity by opening up one of your moving ballrooms for public use.

Instead of paying money, the visitors could pay with food. The food could be pulled along in boxcars behind the ballroom and distributed to your needy people along the way. This would be a great propaganda coup. Your media could broadcast how the Dear Leader is giving up one of his trains to feed his people. Getting your people to actually believe your media is your problem.

I would, of course, be invited along to cover the event. I’ve always been curious about your country and this would be a good way to see it. I’d even bring along some food to give to hungry North Koreans, whom I would insist on interviewing privately and anonymously about life under your rule.

I know you’re going to see this, because even a relatively unknown writer like me Googles himself on a regular basis, and I’m sure you have a whole team of secret police Googling you. So what do you think? Shall we prove those South Koreans wrong and make North Korea the newest destination for backpackers? Or perhaps prove them right and make North Korea the new Monaco? I promise that if you let me leave the country alive I’ll publish a series of features right here on Gadling, and give you an idea of what your people say about you behind your back.


Sean McLachlan

PS: Don’t kidnap me. I have no experience making nuclear weapons or movies.