North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il is becoming increasingly concerned for his personal safety and that of his family, the dictator's former bodyguard said this week.
Lee Young-Kook told Yonhap news agency that Kim fears he could end up dead like Romania's executed communist rulers.
"Kim knows how Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu died," Lee said. "Kim is in a serious dilemma because if he opens the country or doesn't open the country, he knows he could be killed."
Ceausescu and his wife were machine-gunned to death in December 1989. The execution was broadcast on Romanian television.
Kim travels in convoys with four identical sedans as a way to avoid assassination, the defector said.
"We were notified of Kim Jong-Il's destination only two hours ahead of time. Kim is worried about his own safety," said Lee.
Kim has some 100 foreign cars, including Mercedes Benzes and Cadillacs. There are 10 cars of each model.
Kim does not trust anyone in his regime except his elite corps of bodyguards, who follow his every move and who are armed with automatic rifles and pistols.
Guards are rewarded with food and gifts to ensure loyalty and prevent coups.
Kim commands a force of 8,000 guards backed by 100,000 elite soldiers who are powerful enough to crush any revolt from the armed forces, Lee said.
Kim insists on being called general. "Anyone who refers to Kim Jong-Il without the title of 'Great General' or 'General' loses his head," Lee said. "In the psyche of Kim, there is no one in the world except him and everybody should obey him."
Lee said Kim has relentless ambition and a fierce temper. Kim dispatched a 68-year old senior official from the security detail to a prison labor camp, along with the official's family. The official's crime: he had entered Kim's private elevator in one of the leader's villas and took a cigarette from a desk and smoked it, Lee said.
Coal miners, who had learned he had been one of Kim's guards, later killed the former security official. Kim has 14 villas in North Korea, each with 22 women in their early 20s who work as maids.
Lee said reports that Kim's mistress, Ko Young-Hee, was injured in a car accident might be a sign of internal unrest in North Korea. "The accident could have occurred in the process of a power struggle in the North," Lee said, noting that auto accidents for leadership figures are very unlikely because they travel in special lanes.
Lee said the incident might have been carried out by Kim's son, Kim Jong-Nam, to prevent his stepbrother, Kim Jung-Chul from succeeding his father.