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Trains, boats and planes: Kim Jong-un’s modes of transport

Trains, boats and planes: Kim Jong-un's modes of transport

Image copyright KCNA
Image caption Don't call it Air Force Un – the aircraft's official designation is "Chammae-1"

A mysterious North Korean aircraft stationed at China's Dalian airport was the subject of much speculation on 7 and 8 May.

The plane was eventually confirmed to be that of leader Kim Jong-un, who it turned out was meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping in the coastal city.

Mr Kim's increasing international engagement has given the wider world a view of how he travels, with each visit showcasing a different form of transport.

Image copyright KCNA
Image caption Kim Jong-un was afforded a guard of honour on his arrival in Dalian

Aircraft – just an Ilyushin

Kim Jong-un's China visit this week marks his first confirmed international flight since assuming power, but media reports suggest he has previously used his private jet for travel within North Korea.

The aircraft that flew him to China was a Soviet-made long-range aircraft, the Ilyushin-62 (Il-62). The North Korea watchers at website NK News say it is called "Chammae-1", named after a local species of hawk.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The IL-62 jet was used to transport North Korea's delegation to the Winter Olympic opening ceremony earlier this year

The white exterior of the plane is emblazoned with North Korea's official name in Korean on two sides, with the national flag next to the text. The tail features a red star inside red and blue circles.

The aircraft has modern interiors, and Kim has occasionally been photographed working and holding meetings on board.

Image copyright KCNA
Image caption Smoking is allowed on the Supreme Leader's personal aircraft

The Chammae-1 was in the spotlight in February when it carried Pyongyang's high-level Olympics delegation, including Kim's sister Kim Yo-jong, to South Korea.

South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that the flight used the identification number "PRK-615", possibly a symbolic reference to the 15 June North-South Joint Declaration signed in 2000 by the two countries.

Image copyright Rodong Sinmun
Image caption The North's leader, seen at the controls of a Korean Air Force biplane, is thought to have an interest in flying

Kim has also been seen using a Ukrainian Antonov-148 (AN-148), featuring state airline Air Koryo's logo, in a 2014 documentary aired by state-owned Korean Central Television (KCTV).

Kim Jong-un's father Kim Jong-il and grandfather Kim Il-sung avoided air travel, reportedly due to a fear of flying. Kim appears to have no such issues, and in 2015 state media even carried footage of him piloting a "homegrown" light aircraft and sitting at the controls of an AN-2 military biplane.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The appearance of a green train with a yellow stripe on the way to Beijing caused a frenzy of speculation

Big train

When Kim Jong-un visited Beijing in March this year, he used a "special train" believed to be the same as the one used by his father for international travel until his death in December 2011.

Footage of the "dark green train with (a) yellow stripe" used by Kim Jong-un for his China visit went viral on China's Sina Weibo social network at the time, sparking comparisons to Kim Jong-il's train.

In November 2009, conservative South Korean daily Chosun Ilbo said that Kim Jong-il's armoured train featured around 90 carriages. The train had conference rooms, audience chamber and bedrooms, with satellite phones and televisions installed for briefings.

According to North Korean news reports, Kim Jong-il died aboard his official train while on his way to an inspection visit outside Pyongyang.

Image copyright KCNA
Image caption There's plenty of room aboard Mr Kim's train, but only if you are a fan of coral-coloured armchairs

Commenting on KCTV footage of the train in 2011, a source told Chosun Ilbo that the predominantly white furniture appeared to be "custom-made by foreign artisans using top-quality materials".

Kim Jong-un's train features similar furniture, but the sofas and armchairs now appear to be a luxurious coral colour.

State media reports indicate that both father and son used the train to hold meetings during their international visits.

Image copyright KCNA
Image caption Mr Kim's Mercedes did the taxi work on his visit to Beijing in March

Won't you buy me a Mercedes-Benz?

During his visit to Beijing, Kim reportedly used his personal Mercedes-Benz S-Class to travel within the city.

According to South Korean daily JoongAng Ilbo, the car was specially transported on board the leader's train.

The paper reported that the car, manufactured in 2010, cost roughly 2 billion Korean won ($1.8m).

Image copyright KOREA SUMMIT PRESS POOL
Image caption There was no room on board Kim's Mercedes for his flock of bodyguards at the Inter-Korean summit

Kim's favoured S-Class model was prominent during the 27 April inter-Korean summit at Panmunjom, when he drove across the border with bodyguards running alongside.

His convoy at the summit was also reported to feature a private toilet car, used by the leader to answer the call of nature while travelling.

This was also mentioned in a 2015 report by Seoul-based website DailyNK, which said that a customised bathroom is built into one of the cars of Kim's convoy of armoured vehicles.

Image copyright KCNA
Image caption With hints of Duran Duran's Rio video, only the Supreme Leader gets a cushion on this boat

Mystery yacht

State media in North Korea has shown Mr Kim riding variously on boats, a submarine, buses and even a ski lift.

He is also rumoured to use other forms of transport, but these are yet to be seen in his excursions abroad.

When state media published photos of his visit to an army-run fishing station in May 2013, NK News observed a yacht in the background.

There was no clear confirmation that the yacht, estimated to cost $7m, belonged to Mr Kim, or even how it was imported despite international sanctions on luxury goods.

Image copyright KCNA
Image caption Who in North Korea could possibly own a luxury yacht of that size?

Given the price, however, many international media outlets singled out the nation's ruler as the most likely owner.

In June 2015, Washington-based Radio Free Asia reported that a researcher had spotted a new helipad at Kim's lakeside villa in South Pyongan province.

The researcher, working at the US-Korea Institute of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, suggested that the helipad may be used by Mr Kim's family or visitors.

Image copyright KCNA
Image caption Kim Jong-un has a solitary cigarette while enjoying a ski lift ride at North Korea's Masikryong ski resort
Image copyright KCNA
Image caption Mr Kim rides one of his navy's elderly ex-Soviet submarines
Image copyright KCNA
Image caption Fares please: Kim Jong-un and his wife Ri Sol-ju take a midnight bus ride around Pyongyang earlier this year

Reporting by Shreyas Reddy, additional material by Alistair Coleman

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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