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Lavish Mansions of the Late North Korean Despot Kim Jong-Il

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The death of North Korea dictator Kim Jong-Il inspired no great sadness in the West—though many of his subjects faked their own to escape arrest. The lover of Bond movies and fine cognac famously pursued a nuclear weapons program and kept an active military of more than a million men while orchestrating a mass genocide by famine through his incompetence. So, we had to wonder, where did this villain reside? As ruthless oppressors usually do, Kim lived in some truly lavish residences, most well-suited for a Bond antagonist. Of course, pictures of these palaces are few and far between, but one defector managed to smuggle a few out in the early '90s. Kim's "beach house" (above), looking more like a Howard Hughes-era hotel than a private residence, towers above a white sand crescent in Hamgyong. According to some reports, the white behemoth is built on three stories of basements with underwater portals.

? Kim kept several elaborate compounds around the country, perhaps to confuse Western spys or, more likely, just to assuage his famously mercurial tastes. This one, a summer retreat at Kangdong, in the mountains outside of Pyongyang, is known, in a very Communist fashion, as No. 32 Guest House. While this was one of the Dear Leader's favorites, it also suggests that he had at least 31 other homes from which he could choose. Not a bad supply of vacation homes, especially for someone who so rarely welcomed many foreign guests.

? These are a few of the extra "guest houses" at Kangdong, overlooking a lake festooned with walkways and gazebos. Again, the slick modern architecture looks like something out of a Bond film circa 1989. It seems the dictator was a stickler about his television, even in these remote environs, and would reportedly check every channel to ensure his satellite reception was strong.

? Satellites weren't always Kim's best friend. A more recent but less detailed look at one of the dictator's homes, a satellite photo, was uncovered by an American economist. Said by South Korean sources to show No. 21 Guest House, the photo actually looks quite similar to the above photos of Kangdong. Could it be possible that Kim had just the two mansions and called them both "[Insert Any Number Here] Guest House"? Still, most defectors claim he had at least 17.

· Kim Jong Il, Where He Sleeps and Where He Works [DailyNK]
· Kim Jong-il's sitting room discovered by Google earth [People's Daily]