Putin gives Kim Jong-un a luxury car 'because he liked it'

Kim Jong-un (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin sit in Putin's presidential Aurus Senat limousine at Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Russian Far East in September 2023
Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin sit in the Russian president's Aurus Senat limousine at Vostochny Cosmodrome in September 2023 - Yonhap

Vladimir Putin gave Kim Jong-un a luxury car after Pyongyang supplied ballistic missiles and ammunition for Moscow’s war against Ukraine.

The arrival of the car, which violates United Nations sanctions to which Russia previously signed up, was confirmed on Tuesday morning by the North’s state media outlet KCNA.

Putin later stated that he dispatched the Russian-made limousine to Kim because he liked it.

The Kremlin confirmed that the make of the car was a Russian-made “Aurus Senat”.

The sedan is often used for foreign dignitaries when they visit Russia and is the model used when the Russian president visited the North Korean leader last September.

Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korea’s leader, said the “gift serves as a clear demonstration of the special personal relations between the top leaders” of the two countries, KCNA added.

Her brother is known for flaunting his fleet of high-end foreign vehicles and was seen last December riding in four new foreign vehicles, including a $200,000 armoured Mercedes-Maybach S560 sedan. He has previously been seen in a Rolls-Royce Phantom.

Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un during a meeting at the Vostochny Сosmodrome last September
Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un during a meeting at the Vostochny Cosmodrome last September - SPUTNIK

The fondness for high-end vehicles is generational. Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il-sung, who first ruled North Korea, is said to have loved his ZIS Soviet limousine, while the dictator’s father, Kim Jong-il, was a Mercedes-Benz fan.

It is not known exactly how the vehicles, along with other Kim family favourites including designer bags and French wines, have reached the country.

However in 2019, a report by the Washington-based Centre for Advanced Defence Studies said Pyongyang’s ability to smuggle vehicles through China, South Korea and Japan demonstrated how it was also able to supply its nuclear weapons programme.

South Korean intelligence has reported a rise in suspected maritime shipments of weapons including short-range ballistic missiles and more than one million shells from Pyongyang to Moscow, that began in mid-2022 around the time that Kim and Putin met for talks at Russia’s Vostochny Cosmodrome.

Kim returned from that trip with gifts of a rifle, a cosmonaut’s glove, and military drones, and the two countries pledged to strengthen their relationship from defence issues to tourism.

Russian tourists arrived in North Korea earlier this month on the first known foreign tour since pandemic-linked border closures.

Putin is expected to reciprocate Kim’s visit by travelling to Pyongyang, although the timing has not been confirmed.