Kim Jong-il’s Favorite Things: Hennessy, Giant Rabbits, More (Photos)

What made the enigmatic Dear Leader smile? From Elizabeth Taylor to roast donkey, his 10 must-haves.

(Clockwise) Flickr ; Getty Images ; AP Photo

(Clockwise) Flickr ; Getty Images ; AP Photo

What made the enigmatic Dear Leader smile? From the sublime (Elizabeth Taylor) to the ridiculous (roast donkey and Daffy Duck), the dictator’s 10 must-haves.


The Finest Hennessy

When Kim Jong-il needed something to keep him warm on those cold North Korean nights, he turned to Hennessy. And the dictator really enjoyed his cognac: Kim was one of Hennessy’s best customers, spending upward of $800,000 a year on the brand before his doctors made him give it up sometime around 1999.

Vintage French Red Wines

Goodbye, Hennessy, hello, red wine! The fact that doctors told the Dear Leader to give up cognac didn’t deter him from drinking alcohol. He just switched to vintage Bordeaux and Burgundy wines he had imported from France. Eventually, he amassed a wine cellar of more than 10,000 bottles. But by 2003, Newsweek reported, Kim had cut back to just a half bottle a night.

Stylish Elevator Shoes

The diminutive dictator stood just 5 feet 2 and was known to employ shoe lifts to boost his height. The lifts gave him four extra inches—and, with an assist from his Elvis Presley–style ’do, allowed him to tower over most women and small children.

Tom Bean

A Feast of Oversized Rabbits

Two words: giant rabbits. Kim was obsessed with the idea that breeding oversized bunnies in North Korea could feed his starving people. He contacted Karl Szmolinsky, a rabbit breeder from Germany, in 2006 to obtain a dozen oversized rabbits. Szmolinsky said he tried to dissuade Kim from making the purchase. Each rabbit would consume heaps of carrots and potatoes but would produce only about 15 pounds of meat. Undeterred, Kim ordered the furry friends anyway—and wound up serving them at one of his birthday celebrations.

Keystone-France / Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

Best Actress Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor charmed the world with her striking beauty and iconic style, and the North Korean dictator—a movie fanatic—couldn’t resist her, telling the Seoul Times that she was his favorite actress.

Director Shin Sang-ok and Rambo

A devoted cinephile, Kim adored movies and believed they had the power to shape people’s minds. In an effort to do just that, he had South Korea’s most famous director, Shin Sang-ok, kidnapped in 1978. Shin spent years making films for Kim before escaping during a trip to Vienna in the mid-’80s. Kim also loved American flicks, particularly Rambo and Friday the 13th, and amassed a collection of more than 20,000 movies. James Bond movies were among his favorites, though the fictionalized version of North Korea in Die Another Day (2002) was said to have made Kim furious.

Sabine Scheckel / Getty Images

Lobster From His Special Train Tank

Like so many of Kim’s favorite things, lobster is hardly affordable for most North Koreans. But Kim consumed the crustacean every chance he got. His private, Japanese-built armored train boasted two lobster tanks, and if he ran out, more lobster would be delivered to the train at various points along the route.

Roast Donkey With Silver Chopsticks

Two more words: roast donkey. In 2001, Kim set off on a train journey to Moscow. According to a Russian envoy who traveled with the dictator, roast donkey appeared on the menu every day. It was flown in specially to satisfy Kim’s hankering for the gamey meat. The envoy also reported that Kim would eat his donkey with silver chopsticks.

AP Photo

The Compassionate Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton’s political charm managed to extend even to chilly Pyongyang. The former president’s administration convinced Kim to forgo his nuclear program—at least for a little while—in exchange for food aid. Of course, the détente between the two countries didn’t last long. But Clinton’s sway over Kim wasn’t totally dead. In 2009 Clinton secured the release of two American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, stuck in a North Korean prison. How did he convince the star-struck dictator to turn over the Americans?  Decades before, when Kim’s father died, Clinton was the first person to reach out to console the grieving Dear Leader. Kim apparently told Clinton: “I’ve always remembered that, and I’ve always respected you for that, and I’ve always wanted to meet you.”

His Daffy Duck Collection

Picture this: Kim Jong-il dressed in his trademark khaki pant suit and platform shoes, sitting at home, laughing along to the latest Daffy Duck cartoon. It seems surreal—maybe like something out of Team America: World Police?—but Kim was a huge fan of Daffy Duck. Not only did he own the complete collection of episodes, he had a large collection of Daffy Duck memorabilia.