February 06, 2023
Analysis

What Is Behind Sushi Chef’s Decision to Return to North Korea?

A decade after his escape from North Korea, Kim Jong Il’s former sushi chef on Friday announced that he was travelling to North Korea, after accepting a personal invitation to return from Kim Jong-un.  Following his departure from North Korea in 2001, Kenji Fujimoto gained notoriety thanks to four books in which he revealed many details about the late Dear Leader's lifestyle, family, and current leader, Kim Jong Un.  As a result of these books and his media appearances, his return to North Korea has raised more than a few eyebrows.  Especially so when you consider that despite recent statements on  "having not much to fear from this trip", Fujimoto has since 2001 been living in hiding and had often claimed to fear for his life. What to make then of this sudden comeback?

At the press conference prior to his departure to Pyongyang, Fujimoto last week clarified that he saw nothing wrong in visiting the DPRK again, as this was a one-time invitation which would unlikely happen again in the future and for which he saw no reason to refuse.  Fujimoto also specified that he has nothing to fear from this trip, claiming to have never badmouthed North Korea. Apparently he has also received personal guarantees from Kim Jong Un about his safety. But while he may have not made negative remarks about the regime and the Kim family directly[1], in the past he certainly exposed crude details about lavish parties, imported delicacies, a never ending stream of expensive liquors and the often regal lifestyle of the late Dear Leader.