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Kim Jong-un’s mansion is facing collapse as family abandons rusting palace
October 11, 2023
Kim Jong-un’s family have abandoned a mansion owned by the North Korean leader as it is on the verge of collapse.
The roof of the massive property in the east of the capital Pyongyang has been severely damaged and has rusted away. As a result, there is believed to be significant damage to the interior of the Tongpy’ongyang Residence.
Satellite photos revealed parts of the roof have been torn away entirely, showing structural damage. The images also showed a luxurious water feature, now bone dry and overrun by nature.
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According to the North Korea Leadership Watch website the mansion originally belonged to Kim Jong-un’s father and predecessor as dictator, Kim Jong-il. The primary resident of the mansion was Kim Jong-nam – Kim Jong-il’s first-born son – who was assassinated on the orders of his half-brother, the current leader, in 2017.
The site also detailed the damage to the property. Michael Madden, founder of North Korea Leadership Watch, described the luxury that the mansion would have offered in its heyday.
He said: “It had many of the accoutrements that the leader required at home – there was satellite television with channels from South Korea, Japan, the UK and the US. There was a small movie theatre in which people could screen any of the tens of thousands of films Kim Jong-il had in his personal movie collection.
“Chefs and cooks would be on call 24 hours a day, there was also an indoor pool and recreation facilities. The residence had amazing views of the Taedong River on one side and the surrounding forest on the other.
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“Deer and other woodland animals lived on the grounds, brought in from other parts of North Korea. One of the key features of this compound is the artificial waterfall.
“It had a nice fish pond in front it and the waterfall was made from rocks from prominent Korean mountains – in this case, from Mount Paektu and Mount Kumgang.”
Mr Madden, a fellow of the Stimson Center in Washington DC, said the residence would have held little sentimental value for Kim Jong-un. He said: “This residence was the household Kim Jong-il set up for Kim Jong-nam, his aunt, his maternal grandparents and his cousins.
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“Kim Jong-un, his sister Kim Yo-jong, and that family lived at another residence in central Pyongyang. Kim Jong-un would have no interest in this place and probably needed a reminder the compound was still there.
“After all, his father was a polygamist so Kim Jong-il went from household to household. Imagine this from Kim Jong-un's perspective – this is a residence for your father’s other family. These families also viewed each with a high degree of disdain.”
Mr Madden said Kim Jong-nam would have lived at the property in the 1980s and 1990s, and had last stayed there in the mid-2000s – perhaps as late as 2007. He added that satellite images showed signs of basic maintenance at the mansion as late as 2019, but the funding appeared to have dried up and it was now “effectively abandoned”.
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Perhaps unsurprisingly, Kim Jong-un has left it to rot. Mr Madden said: “The rivalry between the two Kim families has been exaggerated over the years, but it is one where there was ‘no love lost’.
“Jong-nam's maternal aunt looked down on Kim Jong-un’s mother, Ko Yong-hui, and viewed her as a manipulative schemer. They called her the ‘button nose’. There was little evidence of any enmity between the sons themselves – to Kim Jong-un, his half-brother was more of an inconvenience and annoyance.”
Kim Jong-nam was assassinated in 2017, apparently on the orders of Kim Jong-un, using a VX nerve agent at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia. At the time of his death, aged 45, he was believed to be living in China, where he was thought to have maintained residences in Macau and Beijing. He was subsequently alleged to have been a CIA informant.