Pyongyang has just joined the long list of cities with a smoking ban. However, the North Korean version isn’t meant to protect its citizens from the evils of the addictive weed, but to stop their Dear Leader from puffing. After reported heart surgery in May, Kim Jong Il’s doctors apparently warned him to forsake drinking and smoking. “So Kim’s home and office and all other places he goes to have been designated as non-smoking areas,” reports Jang Sungmin, a former South Korean politician and North Korea analyst. “Even the highest-ranking officials have to comply, so now everyone has to go outside to smoke.”
Kim is known to have a cardiac condition and is suspected of having diabetes after years of gluttony; his personal sushi chef detailed the reclusive leader’s love of Hennessy VSOP, Iranian caviar and rich greasy food. Talk of Kim’s cardiac surgery was sparked in May when he dropped out of sight just as a German medical team arrived in the hermit kingdom’s capital. Then in July, “Kiminologists,” experts at looking for the slightest change or nuances in North Korea and its leadership, poured over pictures of Kim with China’s foreign minister for clues to his health and reported that he’d lost not only hair from his bouffant coiffure, but also inches from
his waistline, taken as signs that his healthier lifestyle was working.
While the anti-smoking measure will no doubt be energetically implemented and obeyed in this most draconian of countries, going cold turkey will be unbearably hard for the approximately 40 per cent of North Koreans addicted to cigarettes. With little food and ferocious punishment for anyone caught trying to escape the socialist paradise, smoking was one acceptable luxury in a world of everyday drudgery. M
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