As North Korea grappled with a massive famine in the 1990s, scientists were working at an elite institute to find ways to boost then leader Kim Jong-il’s longevity – and his libido, a defector said on Friday.
In the early 1990s scientists were sent to Denmark to find ways to improve the tenderness of North Korea’s beef which Kim thought was too tough, said biologist Kim Hyeongsoo who worked at the center for six years.
He told a human rights conference in London that some 130 scientists selected from the best universities worked at the center which was dedicated to promoting the health and longevity of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung and his son who took power in the secretive state in 1994 and died in 2011.
Scientists were tasked with developing aphrodisiacs using ingredients including the genitalia of male lions and seals as well as traditional medicinal herbs, Kim said.
They were also asked to replicate the leader’s favorite western brand of cigarette – Rothmans – with tobacco imported from Africa.
The scientists were sworn to secrecy and could not even tell their families what they were working on. The institute was surrounded by armed guards and electric fences, he added.
Kim said the center’s work continued even as hundreds of thousands faced hunger in the mid-1990s.
The scientist said he had no idea of the extent of starvation until he returned to his home town in 1998 and saw bodies lying in the street.
Around a million people are estimated to have died in the famine which has been blamed on a combination of economic mismanagement, the loss of Soviet support and natural disasters.
Kim said it was well known that the leader liked to drink and smoke and had young girlfriends. Read more