Rotterdam, Holland, is a bustling international seaport with some appropriately alert customs officers, who, from years of practice, have a way of sussing out what’s really in the millions of containers that come through the port annually. And so it was with no real fanfare late last month that, on a weekend, some internal warning flags were sent up and the officers set about investigating a container bound for China. Auspiciously, the container was flagged for investigation just as the non-summit-summit between strongman Jong-un and President Donald Trump was in the midst of falling apart.
While it’s assumed that North Korean strongman Kim Jong-un is continuing his father’s and grandfather’s luxury consumption — Jong-un was, famously, sent to a Swiss boarding school, hence his reported taste for Emmentaler cheese — it’s rare to get such an odd, and oddly-clear picture as the contents of this container provides of what, exactly, constitutes luxury, as defined by the world’s last hardline Communist regime.
Of course, part of the difficulty faced by Jong-un in importing anything, from anywhere, including Russia, will be the extensive trade sanctions, so that’s what the container, its contents, and its roundabout shipping manifest were all about. The first difficulty faced by the officers in Rotterdam was how to move the pieces of a fuselage of an airplane that had been on top of the container containing the vodka. It took some days to wrangle the fuselage off the thing.