And Harley Street surgeon Nadey Hakim also shared details of his extraordinary journey, in which he was struck by the fanatic veneration with which the people of the country regard the Supreme Guide. With his son David, who is also a doctor, Mr. Hakim embarked on a journey to Hermit State after having contacted the North Korean Embassy in London to offer them a 44-kilogram bust which he had made Kim’s head. He maintains contacts within the embassy and, therefore, contacted Express.co.uk to share his belief that information about the death of this 36-year-old man who swept the world earlier this month was far from reality.
“I think he had minor surgery and he had to recover for three weeks in his country house.
“This suspicion of something is very attractive to the West. “
Hakim, who specializes in pancreas transplants, suggested that if Kim had undergone some sort of procedure, that would be understandable, given that he was “not the healthiest of people.”
He added: “He smokes, he is overweight, he is young and he eats a lot of chocolate, Swiss chocolate. “
Nadey Hakim himself delivered Kim Jong-un’s bronze bust to North Korea
Nadey and David were warmly welcomed on arrival, he said.
Explaining the chain of events that led to his visit in 2018, Mr. Hakim said, “I have this hobby of sculpting, which I have been doing for many years.
“I made a few leaders including Boris, Cameron, Theresa May etc and one day I woke up and read the newspapers I saw a photo of Kim Jong-un laughing and I liked that expression. I thought why not do it, so I did it.
“I have been sculpting for 25 years. Some sculptures can take me months and I have never been happy.
“This one, I finished very quickly and I didn’t have much to change.
“And then I said what do I want to do with it now?”
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The bust is now at the International Friendship Museum in Pyongyang
“So I looked on the Internet for the phone number of the North Korean embassy in London.
“I called the number and as expected, they almost never answer the phone and when they did, someone said to send an email and hang up.
“So I sent an email in three lines:” I said that I had just finished a bust of your supreme guide if you are interested, let me know and I can show it to you. ” “
The embassy called him back in a few minutes, and the staff member he spoke with was initially suspicious.
Mr. Hakim, 62, said, “They said,” Why did you make this sculpture of our Supreme Leader? “, Quite aggressively. In other words, how dare you?
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Kim Jong-un saw the bust for himself, said Hakim
Nadey Hakim traveled to North Korea with her son David, now also a doctor
“I said I had a lot of respect for him – what could I say to them, I had to say something nice to them – and then they said it was the perfect answer, thank you very much, when can we- come see us? “
Embassy officials visited Mr. Hakim at his home that day to see the bust for themselves, and it was agreed that he and David, 25, who was a student at the time medicine, would come to Pyongyang to deliver it, the trip being scheduled to coincide with a medical conference.
He said, “The day before my trip, they came to my house and brought in special layers of wrapping, different colors, tissue paper, with which they wanted me to wrap it.
“They packed it themselves, layer after layer, and made sure they were traveling with me to the airport.
“We landed in Beijing and had to stay overnight in a hotel because there were no more flights to North Korea. “
Nadey and David Hakim with a room of North Korean officials in Pyongyang
Not that their journey was completely simple.
Mr. Hakim explained, “We went back to the airport the next day to fly and Air China said he was sorry but we couldn’t take him to North Korea because he weighed more than 40 kilograms . “
However, the airline quickly gave in after Mr. Hakim explained who the 50 cm sculpture was actually.
When they arrived, they were amazed to find a crowd of officials waiting for them, as well as photographers ready to capture the moment.
From there, they were taken to a special ceremony at Pyongyang University in the presence of the ministers of health and education – but not Kim himself.
Hakim also made busts against Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Donald Trump
Mr. Hakim opened it before them, eliciting a round of applause, of which he has a short clip for posterity, and within a few weeks, he was taken to the Museum of International Friendship, where he now resides.
He said: “It is a beautiful museum dedicated to all the gifts given to foreign dignitaries in North Korea.
“You have gifts from Nixon, there is a full train donated by Stalin – it’s a very interesting place.
“It’s amazing to have one of my sculptures in Pyongyang which just started out by pure chance.
“When I came back to London with my son, he said, ‘Do you realize that we have just been? “”
Hakim said he saw little prospect of North Korea abandoning its missile program
He is also convinced that his bust was seen and approved by Kim himself, adding, “If you bother this guy, your head is cut off – they obviously had to get his permission and show him first.
“They are very discreet. But when I left, the minister told me that he went to his palace – they don’t even know where he is – and he went to the museum. “
As for his impression of the present country, Mr. Hakim said: “It is actually much better than I thought to be honest.
“First, we landed at the airport. It’s actually a pretty decent airport – it’s clean, fairly modern.
“Obviously your phone is not working – you can use it to take photos but there is no internet.
North Korea is one of the most secret countries in the world
“It was a nice 13 or 14 story hotel. I stayed with my son on the same street.
“They have good hospitals, people do not starve as the newspapers say, everything is paid for.
“I was very happy to see how they lived and to see that after all they are human beings like us and they are nice people, and they want to have a good relationship with the West as long as the West is nice with them. “
“I am far from being a communist but I am a humanist and I think they are really nice people.
“I would love to go back there and I actually hoped to go back soon, but this coronavirus situation made this impossible.
Kim John-a pictured opening a factory in Pyongyang – the first time he has been seen in public in weeks
He is God there – he is literally God on Earth
“I wanted to go back to the museum to see the sculpture for myself. “
Nevertheless, Mr. Hakim was deeply aware of the cult of personality that characterizes the nation’s attitude towards its leaders.
He said, “He’s God over there – he’s literally God on Earth, a secular God. “
Hakim also suggested that the prospect of a nuclear-free North Korea envisioned by US President Donald Trump – of whom he also made a sculpture – was distant.
He added: “It will be difficult because what they are looking for is the reunification of Korea.
“The answer they give is why should they abandon their nuclear weapons when there are so many in the south? “