Monday, March 21, 2011

Kim Jong Il's former bodyguard

For 10 years, until 1988, Lee Young-guk was a personal bodyguard for Kim Jong Il, working among the phalanx of trained killers who protect the North Korean dictator.

Lee oversaw the enigmatic strongman's younger years as a leader in training, observing a privileged life played out inside grim fortresses and hideaway villas. Eventually, Lee came to detest what he now sees as a farcical leader who enjoyed unparalleled luxury while his impoverished nation starved.

He watched high-ranking officials hide behind trees rather than face the mercurial "Dear Leader," who was so fearful of duplicity that he constantly switched limousines, so fussy that he demanded his favorite perfume sprayed throughout his villas. Displeasing Kim could mean imprisonment, as it did for the guard sent to a gulag for using one of Kim's favorite ashtrays.

"As time went on, I saw the real evil," said Lee, who defected to South Korea in 2000 and wrote a tell-all book two years later about his experiences. "He's a man who is not qualified to be a world leader."

The former bodyguard senses that the years have only made the ailing 70-year-old leader even more dangerous.

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